What's the difference between NHS and Private Dentists? - Smile Stories
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What’s the difference between NHS and Private Dentists?

What’s the difference between NHS and Private Dentists?

Need help deciding whether to choose an NHS or a private dentist? The dental experts at Smile Stories offer an insight into the differences between NHS and a private dentist Bournemouth

In the UK you have the option to see an NHS dentist or a dentist who works in a private clinic. Both offer general dental treatments to maintain and improve your oral health but there are differences in the range of treatments they provide, the cost, eligibility and length of appointment. There may also be differences in clinic aesthetics, materials used and appointment availability.

In brief, NHS dental care is usually more affordable but focuses on the bare essential treatments to maintain the health of your teeth and gums while private dental care offers a wider range of services including cosmetic treatments but can appear more expensive before you look past just the figure in pounds.

Let’s look at the differences between NHS and private dentists in more detail. 

Treatment Options: NHS vs Private Dental Care

In the UK, one of the biggest differences between NHS and private dentists is the range of treatments offered. 

NHS dental treatments are limited 

NHS dental care is accessible to all individuals in the UK for clinically necessary oral health treatments, it doesn’t typically include composite bonding, cosmetic treatments or advanced treatments (unless there is a proven medical need for them).

On the NHS you can access essential treatments, such as check-ups, fillings, and extractions. You can also access X-rays, as well as restorative treatments including crowns and dentures. However, any treatment offered by an NHS dentist must be crucial to keep your mouth healthy. 

Advanced procedures like dental implants are not usually available on the NHS except on rare occasions for medical reasons. 

For young people under the age of 18, orthodontic treatment using fixed metal braces is available on the NHS at no cost if a dentist deems it necessary. Unfortunately, NHS orthodontic treatment is not usually available for adults or for those children wishing to have clear aligners or clear ceramic braces.


Private dentists offer traditional and cosmetic treatments

Private patients can access a range of general and cosmetic dental treatments, giving you access to a wider range of services than are offered on the NHS. You don’t just get treatment when things go wrong, private dentists offer treatment that prevents you from needing treatment. After all, prevention is better than cure and proactivity is better than being reactive. 

Private dentists offer a thorough dental health check, not just a quick checkup

When you go to a private dental clinic, like we’ve set up here in Bournemouth you don’t just get a standard quick check-up that the NHS offers, you get a thorough dental health check. This includes 

  • A gentle professional hygiene visit 
  • The most comprehensive health check you’ll have by any dentist… ever. This often includes cavity and decay detection, gum disease diagnosis, oral cancer screenings, temporomandibular joint health check, tooth wear analysis, 3D Scanning and X-rays. We leave no stone unturned
  • A bespoke plan that’s a roadmap to complete health and lifetime smile confidence.

NHS dentists would love to offer you this service, but they just don’t have enough time in their appointments or budget due to low government funding. 

Private dentist offer services not available on the NHS 

In addition to more thorough dental checkups, most private dentists offer tooth-coloured rebuilds instead of ugly amalgam fillings, preventative hygiene appointments and gum health treatments, as well as more sophisticated treatments such as dental implants and various orthodontic systems. 

Cosmetic services are also available and may include teeth whitening, veneers, composite bonding and white fillings. Furthermore, smile makeovers are available to create a customised treatment plan tailored to provide the perfect smile.

Find out the full range of services we offer here at smile stories.

Cost of dental care: NHS vs private dentists

Another difference between NHS and private dental care is the cost. Generally, NHS dental care is more affordable in the short term, but you only get the basics.

NHS dental care is subsidised

In Bournemouth and the rest of England, NHS examinations and treatments are subsidised by the government and patients cover the balance. This means that NHS dental patients can benefit from reduced costs compared to those who opt for private dental services. Certain groups, like pregnant women, may be eligible to receive NHS dental care free of charge.

Private dentists offer competitively priced treatments

Private dentists, like those working at Smile Stories, Bournemouth, operate independently and charge their own fees for dental procedures. In most cases, a private dentist will strive to offer quality services at an affordable cost, while also taking into account the individual needs of the patient. 

Private dentists offer multiple payment options

Private dentists typically offer multiple payment options to accommodate their patients. These can include monthly payments, up-front fees, instalment plans, insurance coverage and discounts.  Whereas NHS payments need to be made in full at the time of your appointment. 

Here in Bournemouth, we offer the “Smile Stories Membership” which for a set monthly fee includes the following

  • 3D Health Checks with 3D scans for clear discussion and visit-by-visit comparison
  • Professional Hygiene Visits
  • In-mouth Digital X-Rays
  • Worldwide Dental Emergency Insurance
  • An unrivalled 20% off required treatments
  • 5% off optional treatments (e.g. smile makeovers or teeth straightening)
  • Priority evening and weekend appointments

We also offer you the option to spread the cost of any cosmetic or advanced treatments interest-free! 

Emergency Treatment

If you have a debilitating toothache, an infection, or a damaged tooth you may require immediate dental attention. 

NHS urgent dental care is more affordable but often inaccessible

Emergency dental treatment is covered by the NHS with only a small charge for an urgent appointment – in Bournemouth, this is currently £23.80. However, due to demand many NHS dentists are unable to register new patients, even when urgent care is required. 

Private dentists can help you get out of trouble

The cost of emergency appointments at a private dentist can vary but are often upwards of £125. Unlike the NHS, in most situations, you can get an appointment within 24 hours. 

If you already have a dental payment plan or dental insurance it may cover the cost of urgent appointments, but this will depend on your provider and plan. 

The main difference between Smile Stories and NHS dentists is that because we offer proactive dentistry, it’s very rare that our clients need emergency treatment. 

NHS vs Private Dental Appointments

NHS dental appointments may be more affordable but you get a lot more for your money at a private dentist.

Private dental appointments last longer

In general, NHS appointments are shorter than those provided by private dentists. Checkups provided by the NHS generally last 10-15 minutes. Here at Smile Stories our checkups last 30 to 60 minutes and are often combined with your Professional Hygiene Visit to ensure we’re all pulling in the same direction for you.

Private dentists often have more availability

Many NHS dentists are not taking on new patients due to their limited capacity and the terms of their contract with the NHS. This is causing significant challenges for those seeking an NHS dental appointment.

Private dental practices offer more flexibility

Many private dentists, like those at Smile Stories, offer convenient evening and weekend appointments, giving you greater flexibility, so you can fit your dental care around the rest of your life. In contrast, NHS dentists, in general, are only open between 8am and 5pm Monday to Friday.

Private Appointments are tailored to you

As you have more time in the chair at private dental appointments dentists have more time to listen to your individual needs and provide tailored advice that is specific to you. It also gives us time to explore a range of treatment options with you, so that you can make an informed decision about your care.

The NHS have longer waiting times

Generally, NHS dentists have long wait times. Waiting times for an appointment with an NHS dentist can range from a few weeks to several months in some cases, while you can usually get a private appointment within a few days.

NHS Dental Care vs Smile Stories, a Private Dentist here in Bournemouth

Private dental care is accessible to all in Bournemouth. The beauty of opting for private dental care, with the expert private dentist here at Smile Stories is the freedom of choice. You can access a broader spectrum of treatments than those found under the NHS umbrella, along with flexible payment options. Whether you require a routine dental check-up or a complete smile transformation, private dental care with us offers the ideal solution.