Dentist and Opticians

How to find an NHS dentist

Everyone should be able to access good-quality NHS dental services. There is no need to register with a dentist in the same way as with a GP because you are not bound to a catchment area. Simply find a dental practice that's convenient for you, whether it's near your home or work, and phone them to see if there are any appointments available. If you do not have a regular dental practice or are new to the area, you can search for an NHS dentist near you on the NHS England website.

Dental practices won't always have the capacity to take on new NHS patients – you may have to join a waiting list, look for a different dentist who is taking on new NHS patients, or be seen privately.

Once you find a dental practice, you may have to fill in a registration form at your first visit, which is purely to add you to their patient database. However, that does not mean you have guaranteed access to an NHS dental appointment in the future.

Problems finding an NHS dentist

 If after contacting several dental practices you still can't find a dentist accepting NHS patients, you should call NHS England's Customer Contact Centre on 0300 311 2233.

NHS England commissions dental services in England and is required to meet the needs of their local population for both urgent and routine dental care.

Your local Healthwatch also may be able to give you information about services in your area.

If NHS England has been unable to help you find a dentist and you want to raise your concerns about this, contact them on: 

Dental emergency and out-of-hours care

If you think you need urgent care, contact your usual dentist as some practices offer emergency dental slots and will provide care if clinically necessary.

You can also call NHS 111, who can put you in touch with an urgent dental service.

Do not contact your GP, as they will not be able to offer urgent or emergency dental care.

When to go to A&E

Only visit A&E in serious circumstances, such as:

  • severe pain
  • heavy bleeding
  • injuries to the face, mouth or teeth

If you're not sure whether you should go to A&E, contact NHS 111, who will be able to advise you. Find out when to dial 999.

How much will I be charged?

The emergency dentist will only deal with the problem at hand and provide clinically necessary treatment to stop any pain. An urgent dental treatment will always be charged at Band 1 (£20.60) – see NHS dental charges explained. If you are entitled to free NHS dental care, you should be able to claim back the cost of any treatment. Ensure you keep all receipts. If you need further treatment, this will be considered to be a separate course of non-urgent treatment. You will have to pay the relevant charge for the new course of treatment. Ask the dentist what the treatment will cost or whether you can have a treatment plan.

Why are my teeth so important?

Your teeth vary in shape and size depending on where they are in your mouth. These differences allow the teeth to do many different jobs. Teeth help us to chew and digest food. They help us to talk, and to pronounce different sounds clearly. Finally, teeth help to give our face its shape. A healthy smile can be a great asset; and because this is so important, it makes sense to give your teeth the best care possible.

How do I keep my teeth and gums healthy?

It is easy to get your mouth clean and healthy, and keep it that way. A simple routine can help prevent most dental problems:

  • brushing your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste
  • cleaning between the teeth with ‘interdental' brushes or floss at least once a day
  • good eating habits - having sugary foods and drinks less often, and
  • regular dental check-ups

Although most people brush regularly, many don't clean between their teeth and some people don't have regular dental check-ups. A few small changes in your daily routine can make a big difference in the long term. Your dental team can remove any build-up on your teeth and treat any gum disease that has already appeared. But daily dental care is up to you, and the main weapons are the toothbrush, toothpaste and interdental cleaning (cleaning between your teeth).

 NHS eye care services: visiting an optician

When you visit an optician for an eye test, you'll be examined by an ophthalmic practitioner or optometrist who is trained to recognise abnormalities and conditions such as cataracts or glaucoma. Ophthalmic practitioners will prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses, and, if necessary, they will refer you to a GP or a hospital eye clinic for further investigations. Sometimes you'll be referred to a specialist optometrist for a referral refinement.

How often should I have an eye test?

Our eyes rarely hurt when something is wrong with them, so having regular eye tests is important to help detect potentially harmful conditions.  The NHS recommends that you should get your eyes tested every two years (more often if advised by your ophthalmic practitioner or optometrist).

An NHS sight (eye) test is free of charge if you are in one of the eligible groups and your sight test is considered clinically necessary. If the ophthalmic practitioner can't see a clinical need then you'll have to pay for the test privately.

What happens after the eye test?

Following an eye test your ophthalmic practitioner is legally required to provide you with your optical prescription or a statement setting out that you have been referred for further tests.

An NHS optical voucher will also be issued immediately if you can prove you are entitled to one. There are currently 10 voucher values. The values are dependent on the strength of your prescription. The stronger your prescription, the higher the value your voucher will be. 

You should never feel obliged to purchase glasses or redeem an optical voucher from the premises where you had your eye test. Shop around for the best value and only purchase glasses or contact lenses when you are happy with the product and cost.