One of the most common questions patients ask dentists in the UK concerns the difference between NHS and private dentistry. Citizens of the United Kingdom all have the legal right to access comprehensive dental healthcare, 100% free of charge on the NHS. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of UK of residents choose to visit private dentists. Which is interesting, given the way in which only a fractional minority choose to visit private doctors and other clinicians.
Truth be told, the vast majority of adults will never use the complementary dental healthcare they are entitled to. Which once again leads back to the obvious question – why is this the case? If complementary healthcare is available for everyone, why do most choose to visit private dentists?
Well, the simple answer is that while both options have their advantages and disadvantages, private dentistry typically takes precedence for most. What follows is a brief overview of the key distinguishing points and factors that separate NHS and private dentistry in the United Kingdom:
Looking first at private dentistry, there are certain key points that separate the private option from NHS oral healthcare, which include:
- First and foremost, cosmetic treatments are only made available on the NHS in relatively severe cases. Otherwise, everyday cosmetic dentistry only tends to be carried out by private practitioners. When you go private, you are able to ask the dentist to do whatever it is you want, even if it is a procedure you do not necessarily need for health reasons. Whitening for example is never provided by the NHS.
- Likewise, private dentists typically use the kinds of materials and products which ensure the most attractive possible results. They put just as much emphasis on the cosmetic side of the results as their functionality. By contrast, NHS dentistry is primarily about functionality, with the cosmetic side of the result taking a backseat.
- There’s also much to be said for the convenience of working with private dentists. The reason being that in most instances, private practitioners do not limit their working hours to standard office hours. Instead, they usually make themselves available during evenings and perhaps even weekends. This can be enormously beneficial for those with busy working schedules, or kids who have to abide by school timetables. More often than not, private dentists tend to be highly flexible in terms of appointment times.
- Also on the subject of appointment times, working with a private practitioner means having the opportunity to spend longer in their company. Most of the time, NHS dentists are so incredibly busy and have such huge patient lists that they are physically unable to spend more than the bare minimum time with each patient. When you go private, you typically get as much time as you need. You are therefore considerably less likely to feel as though you are being rushed.
- Remaining with the subject of flexibility, it is also typical for waiting times to be considerably lower than those who choose to visit private dentists. If you need an appointment for anything whatsoever – even if it isn’t particularly urgent – you generally tend to find yourself waiting no longer than a few days. By contrast, it isn’t uncommon for NHS dentistry waiting lists to stretch on for weeks or even months. Particularly if your requirement is more cosmetic than necessary in health terms, waiting lists for private dentists tend to be exponentially shorter.
- Last but not least, going private means having the luxury of choosing your own dental clinic and practitioner, in accordance with your requirements and preferences. For example, if you are a particularly nervous patient, you could use a clinic which specialises in the treatment of those with dental phobias. Such clinics may have their own unique approaches to dentistry, which are not nearly as as unnerving as typical dental treatment and processes. When you go with the NHS, patients across the board are treated relatively similarly.
So having looked at the benefits of private dentists, what’s the appeal of NHS dentistry? Is it worth considering the public option, or is it best simply to stick with the private dentistry the UK public considers to be the norm?
- Technically speaking, there is one major advantage NHS dentistry has over the private option. Which is of course the fact that it is offered 100% free of charge. Regardless of the extent to which surgical procedures or treatments are required, NHS patients are never required to hand over a single penny. They may need to pay for any prescription medications or products required along the way, but this is exactly the same with private dentists as well. For this reason, those who may find it difficult or impossible to pay the often excessive costs of private dental treatment may find the NHS the only viable option.
- That said, there’s nothing to say that you cannot visit a private dentist for all routine checkups and appointments, only to then move over to the public side of things should any treatment be required. This way, you can to a certain extent experience the best of both worlds.
- In addition, it’s also worth bearing in mind the fact that NHS dentists do not work for profit. As such, you can always rely on the support and advice they provide as 100% honest, impartial and entirely for your own benefit. By contrast, it is hardly uncommon for private dentists to recommend various treatments and products that the patient may not necessarily need. The reason being that in doing so, they increase their own earnings as a result. It’s relatively rare for private dentists to offer dangerously misleading advice, though the ‘upsell’ really is just part and parcel of the private package.
Of course, the best way to keep dentistry costs down to absolute minimums is to keep your teeth and gums in the best possible condition for life. Arm yourself with a quality electric toothbrush, floss properly every day and you’re already halfway there!