1. You already pay for it.
It will come as no surprise to many to hear this but with the launch of the NHS in 1948 Dental care was, for the first time, free at the point of use.
That is not state that it is now or ever was “free”, ultimately we pay for the NHS dental services in our National Insurance Contributions. Regardless of whether you use Nhs dentistry or not then, you are subsidising those that do. The reason for dentistry being included in the NHS menu of services back then was largely due to the fact that among our European neighbors British dental health was outstandingly poor. Having a population that was not regularly appearing before our best surgeons as emergency cases of invasive dental abscess was in the long run a huge saving for everyone. After all poor dental health is poor health and a healthy population is in everyone’s best interests. It is worth noting though that over the course of an average persons lifetime in the UK they will pay £107,045.00 in NI contributions. Include in that figure employers NI contributions and you may be heading up to £300,000.00 in a lifetime. Not exactly free medical services. The first reason then is a purely selfish one – get some of that money back
2. A Private Dentist is in most cases also a NHS Dentist.
The issue is “who pays” not “who does” in UK dentistry. Some may think that a dentist is just a dentist and they would in some senses be absolutely right. What’s the difference between an NHS dentist and a private dentist? Just who settles the bill. In almost all cases in the UK NHS dentists take private clients and private dentists take NHS clients. In fact in some cases the only reason that this does not happen is that the “private” dentist does not hold an NHS contract. That might be because they dont want to do NHS work but it might be because the NHS doesn’t approve of that practice. In some cases therefore, having an NHS facility is a badge of honour.
An NHS dentist then is one that works at a dental practice that offers some treatments subsidised by the NHS. It is categorised into affordable ‘bands’ that are:
Band 1 £21.60: This covers an examination, diagnosis (including X-rays), advice, a scale and polish if clinically needed, and preventative care such as fluoride varnish or fissure sealant where appropriate.
Band 2 £59.10: This covers everything listed in band 1, as well as treatments like non-white fillings, root canal work, or removal of teeth.
Band 3 £256.50: This covers everything listed in bands 1 and 2, as well as crowns, dentures, bridges, and other complex laboratory work.
Cosmetic treatments such as white fillings, veneers, and teeth whitening are usually not available under NHS payment because they are not strictly related to your health needs. Amalgam fillings are available through your NHS dentist as these are necessary for the health of your teeth.
3. Not all Dental Procedures Require High Technical Input.
There is no getting away from it, the views of many of the UK general public is that private dentists are “better” than NHS ones. This article doesn’t have to tackle that issue and nor should it. The reality is that Nhs dentists are to some degree, as indicated above, restricted in the type of dental services that they can offer. In the main, these treatments are typically available in every NHS area where NHS dentistry is accessible:
- Check Ups (oral health examinations)
- Treatment Planning and Advice
- Diagnostic Procedures (x-rays)
- Root-canal treatment
- Crowns and bridges
- Preventive treatment (such as a scale and polish, when needed)
- Orthodontic (teeth straightening) treatment for children and young people aged under 18.
What is not included in that list is any treatment that has no clinical benefit but only cosmetic – such as teeth whitening or “aesthetic / cosmetic treatments”. You of course can pick and choose exactly what treatments you want to pay private rates for and which you would prefer to have subsidised by the NHS. Assuming that you have this facility. Picking and choosing simple dental procedures on NHS funding can save substantially, perhaps even enough to warrant splashing out on those implants.
4. In fact British Dental Practice is as good or better now than almost anywhere
Whilst the quality of British dentistry still raises a titter across the pond (fortunately, we have so much material on them we are not reduced to jokes on appearance) the reality is that UK dentistry has been constantly improving alongside vast improvements in dental surgery education. In fact most of the worlds best dental surgeons are also members of the UK Royal Colleges. Our Universities that offer dental training at an undergraduate level are now widely imitated across the globe and our dental educators are sought after everywhere.
Add to that the vast array of dental laboratory facilities and cutting edge research on dental cosmetics and treatments and its obvious that things have changed for the better.
Throughout europe UK trained dental surgeons head up world class teams in dental treatment and in the UK itself both UK and EU trained dentists now work side by side on dental service provision with seamless integration of treaments. These treatments are available with NHS funding but in much of the EU that exact treatment would cost hundreds if not thousands of euro’s.
5. There is more to NHS Dental Practice than money and that is just as well..
One thing that NHS Dentists all agree on, is that there is just not a large barrel of money buried underneath that dentists chair. NHS funding is pathetically weak, it simply does not cover the costs associated with modern Dental practice and that means that dentists are forced to look for other work. Rather than acknowledging this every government since the NHS foundation in 1948 has ducked the issue. Looking foward that means that eventually there has to be some sort of advanced funding structure or there has to be write downs for capital expenditure on Dental equipment and property. If not the whole programme will soon collapse under its own wieght.
How is that an advantage?
Because most dentists working in areas of economic instability are offering a program of health that is barely adequately funded. They tend to offer private dental services as well to make ends meet and that means that a “hybrid” service is both available to you and is second nature to the dentists. It also means that your hard earned cash can do some good in direct subsidy – you and people like you can actually assist in making good quality health services available to all, where left to thier own devices, those services would simply close. That benefits you in ways that cannot really be counted.
6. Because your vote counts
Make no mistake, every health secretary ever appointed has had the issue of public dental health put onto the desk in front of them for consideration.
Here are a few little facts to consider about the position of health secretary.
- The postion has in various forms existed since 1848 (100 years before the NHS existed)
- There have been 56 of them in 173 years – an average term of 3 years.
- 10 of the appointments were to men who held heriditary titles and had direct lineage to the throne. 7 held Knighthoods before office.
- Only 1 of them went on to be Prime Minster (Neville Chamberlain)
- 37 of the appointees were Conservatives (or roughly aligned)
- 18 were Labour (or roughly aligned)
- 3 of them were women.
- ONLY 1 WAS MEDICALLY QUALIFIED Dr Walter Elliott who was appointed directly by Prime Minister Chamberlain and was sacked immeidiatly upon the appointment of Winston Churchill.
- Every 99% of the remainder were either qualified lawyers or had no profession.
The position of Health Minister or Secretary for State for Health is a political cul-de-sac. Only one man has ever made it to number 10 from the role and his appointment of a Dr to the roll was widely scoffed at by other politicians. Winston Churchill made short work of that appointment before himself being sacked from office post war and the NHS was born directly against his wishes.
What every single one of these ministers really want is to have dentistry an entirely private medical payment facility. They dont want any NHS involvment and every patient who de registers or fails to register for eligible services is a victory for them. We will only get a fair and sensible deal for patients in the UK if every member of the public registers and uses some form of dental care via subsidised service. Registering with a NHS dentist is akin to registering to vote, you are entitled to do it, you pay for it and the powers that be resent it, what more reasons do you need>?