Registering with a dentist

If you have a dental problem you should, in the first instance always telephone the dental practice that you normally attend.

If you are not registered with any dental practice then you should read our advice on dental emergencies.

In order to receive the full range of dental treatment and care under the NHS, you must be registered with a dentist.

When you register with a dentist you'll be registered for life, unless you or your dentist request your registration to be withdrawn.

If you attend another dentist for treatment and don't tell them you're registered elsewhere, your registration will automatically transfer to that dentist.

Not all dentists are able to take on new NHS patients. You should contact dental practices directly to find out if you can register with them.

The NHS inform helpline is unable to tell you which dental practices are currently accepting new patients.

Find dentists in your area


Once you've found your dentist and established they can take you on as a new NHS patient, you'll need to supply your dentist with some information.

To register you as a new patient, they'll ask you for your name and address. You'll also be asked to sign a registration form and arrange your first check-up.

At this stage you should be supplied with all the relevant information you need about your dentist including:

  • the dental services they provide
  • who'll be carrying out your dental treatment
  • contact information and opening hours

If you want to register your child you should do this at the same time you register yourself. Remember, you don't have to wait until your child's teeth grow in, you can register them soon after they're born.

Understanding your dental treatment

Your dentist may carry out an NHS check-up every 6 months. To receive the best care possible you should try to visit them twice annually and avoid missing appointments.

During your dental check-up your dentist will ask you a number of questions including any changes you have noticed with your teeth and any general health problems you have or are experiencing. They'll also want to know if you are taking any medications.

After they've established how your general health is they will do the following:

  • examine your mouth including your teeth, gums and tongue
  • advise you on how you can keep your mouth healthy
  • explain any treatments you may need - if you do need dental treatment they will explain your options including what treatments can be carried out on the NHS
  • explain any treatment cost

Treatment plan

If you do need treatment then your dentist will supply you with a treatment plan. A treatment plan is a document that helps to explain the treatment you require and what it will involve. It will also detail an estimate of how much the treatment will cost you.

You can ask for a treatment plan any time treatment has been recommended for you. If you want to take a copy away with you, your dentist can arrange this.

Available treatments as an NHS patient

Once you're registered as an NHS patient you have access to any treatment, advice and care you need to keep your teeth, mouth and gums as healthy as possible. Your dentist will explain which treatments are available on the NHS and which are private. 

Treatments that you may receive on the NHS include:

  • bridges
  • crowns
  • fillings
  • root canal treatment
  • scale and polish
  • braces
  • wisdom tooth removal
  • dentures or false teeth

Generally, cosmetic procedures will need to be paid for privately.

Dental treatment costs

A NHS dental examination in Scotland is free of charge for everyone.

Following a dental examination, the dentist will advise you on any treatment you require and the likely cost. They must also provide an itemised account, if requested.

NHS patients, who pay for their treatment, pay 80% of the treatment costs (including any X-rays), up to a maximum of £384. A dentist can ask for payment in advance.

A dentist can charge a patient if they fail to attend for an appointment without giving due notice.

Who gets free treatment on the NHS?

NHS treatment is free for:

  • everyone aged under 26
  • pregnant women
  • nursing mothers until their baby is 12 months old
  • those with certificated exemption from payment because of income

Please take evidence of any exemption with you to the dentist.

If your exemption from payment changes during a course of treatment, please tell the dentist.

Read our help with health costs guide for more information.

What is prior approval?

Your dentist may inform you that they have to apply for prior approval before your treatment can be started. Dentists are required to seek approval from the NHS NSS Practitioner Services, for certain treatments and treatments of high value. This process may take a little time and delay your treatment slightly.

Are all treatments available on the NHS?

Not all treatments are available on the NHS. Cosmetic treatments are not available - for example ‘white fillings’ on back teeth or a tooth coloured crown on a back tooth.

Your dentist will be able to explain what treatment is and isn't allowed on the NHS.

For more information on treatment charges visit Scottish Dental 

Last updated:
04 August 2022