Dentists - What They Should Do For You
We all need a dentist from time to time. The best plan, of course, is to go to your dentist a couple of times a year, which can eliminate any problems before they become painful. Certainly, though, you should be registered with a dentist. These days, that usually means as a private, rather than an NHS patient.
NHS DentistsAs more and more dentists turn to private practice, it's becoming harder to find an NHS dentist. You may also find, if you do have an NHS dentist, that you're no longer eligible for NHS treatment if you haven't seen your dentist in 15 months.
You're entitled to free NHS dental treatment if you receive income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance or the guarantee credit of Pension Credit. Your partner and children will also be entitled to free treatment. If you receive Working Tax Credit and/or Child Tax Credit then, depending on your income, you may be entitled to free dental treatment. Treatment is also free for under 18s, those over 18 but in full-time education, if you are are pregnant, or you've had a baby during the last twelve months and hold a valid maternity exemption certificate (this also if you had a miscarriage after the 24th week of pregnancy, or your baby was stillborn). Prisoners receive free dental treatment. In Scotland you're entitled to free checkups. That also applies in Wales, but only if you're under 25 or over 60. If you don't qualify for free treatment, you'll be asked to pay 80% of the costs.
Private DentistsIt's always best to research a dentist before becoming a patient. Obtain recommendations from friends and relatives, and identify and special issues you might have, such as a fear of dentists or out-of-hours appointments. Always ask for a price list and establish exactly what the fees cover.
Ask whether the practice charges a registration fee, which isn't the same as an initial examination fee, and whether they participate in a quality assurance scheme, such as a dental accreditation plan.
If you need a treatment plan, discuss the options available with the dentist and have everything written and costed, so you know beforehand what you'll have to pay. A good dentist will give information on alternative treatments, especially if the proposed treatment is extensive or expensive. Don't make a decision on the spot; take the information home and consider it. You might also get a second opinion from another dentist, although you'll have to pay for it.
You can pay on a fee-per-item basis (settling your bill at each stage of treatment), by fixed monthly payments on the expected level of treatment (capitation schemes), or through a dental insurance policy (there are also policies that cover NHS treatment). You're entitled to receive an itemized bill, with details of all charges.
ProblemsIf you're not satisfied with the service or treatment at a practice, talk to your dentist. If that doesn't solve the problem write to the practice, which should have a formal complaints procedure.
In the event of a very serious breach of ethics, contact the General Dental Council. If they can't resolve the matter, you might consider court action.
If you're not satisfied with the service or the way a complaint has been handled, change your dentist. Anyone has the right to change a dentist at any time. Under the Data Protection Act, you can obtain copies of your personal dental records. You'll need to make a written request to the dentist, and you may have to pay a fee.