Looking to see a dentist in London as an expat? Whether it’s your first time trying to navigate the dental system in the UK or you’re preparing for when you do, here’s everything you need to know about seeing a dentist in London — from a London expat!
There’s a never-ending list of things I love about London, but one thing that definitely doesn’t make the list in any place is going to the dentist.
But despite my dental anxiety — after far too long without a visit (embarrassingly long actually) I knew it was time to see a dentist in London, here’s how you can too.
An Expat’s Guide to Dental Care in London
When Should I See a Dentist in London?
If you’ve just moved to London or are still settling in, seeing a dentist is probably the last thing on your mind; but trust me, it’s important.
As you may or may not know, the British aren’t particularly known for their sparkling whites — this is partly due to the fact that nearly 40% of people in the UK don’t go the dentist regularly, and as you probably know, that’s not a great position to be in.
Avoiding the dentist lead to severe teeth problems later on as my dentist so kindly reminded me, such as tooth decay or even tooth extraction (where your tooth is beyond repair — so they have to take out the whole thing!)
Of course, none of this is being said to scare you, but simply as a reminder to take your dental health seriously (you’ll see why with my story later!). At minimum dentists suggest visiting once a year, however twice a year would be ideal.
Pro-tip: Be sure to set a Google calendar reminder on your phone for every 5 months to schedule your dentist appointments in London a month before
Is the Dental Care System Apart of the NHS? (i.e — is it free?)
Another reason not many people go to the dentist is because it isn’t a generally free service provided by the NHS, however it is apart of the NHS.
Each type of dental service you receive would fall under a different NHS ‘band’ and cost as shown below.
When setting your dentist appointment be sure to let them know if you’d like to go through the NHS or not as many dentist offices operate as both a private and NHS practice, meaning they may assume you want to go private while you’re booking (this happened to me).
P.S – There are a few circumstances in which you would not need to pay for NHS dental care, you can see if you qualify here
Private vs NHS Dental Care
Although NHS dental care is cheaper than private dental care in London, there are some instances where you may prefer to go private:
Less Waiting Time:
Long waiting times are a common complaint among NHS users of dental care in the UK. In my experience, I was able to get an initial dental consultation under the NHS within one week, so don’t take this as bible. However for a root canal they said the waiting list was up to 2-3 months.
When you go private you’re typically able to get appointments for any dental treatment quicker than you would with the NHS.
If you’re looking for cosmetic dentistry (for example: teeth whitening, veneers, or braces not needed for clinical reasons) you will need to seek private dental care.
This is because these treatments aren’t covered under the NHS unless a dentist has cited them as a critical medical need.
(in some opinions) better care:
Although experiences will vary dentist to dentist, most people prefer the experience of going to a private practice over receiving NHS services.
However when it comes to dental care in London, the same dentist who performs private procedures will also handle NHS cases, so this isn’t necessarily accurate in all cases.
How do I Book a Dentist in London?
Lucky for us the process of booking a dentist appointment in London is pretty straightforward. If you’re using the NHS service just go to their ‘find a dentist’ feature on their website and type in your postcode.
Once you do you’ll be given a list of dental practice names, addresses, and phone numbers near you.
Unlike your GP, dental care is not based on residency in the UK. So for example, if you lived in East London but the only available dentist was in West London (or you’d just prefer their practice) there’s no restrictions on where you can be registered.
Once you’ve got your list of practices you’re interested in, pick one and give them a ring to schedule your initial consultation.
In my experience, the first dental practice I called said they weren’t accepting new patients until the end of the next month! However the second one I called was able to book me an appointment for the same week, so keep calling practices until you find one with availability.
P.S – Also be sure to read their Google reviews, I realised after the first dental practice I rang up had horrible reviews on Google — I’m glad they didn’t take me!
How Long Will my Dentist Appointment be?
Of course it depends on your particular situation, but expect an initial consultation should take no more than one hour from the time you arrive.
What to Bring to Your Dentist Appointment in London
Before you consultation you’ll be asked to fill in a form on your basic medical and dental history. They’ll usually ask for this to be sent back via email at least a day before your appointment — so make sure you do it early! Other than that make sure you bring:
- ID (they didn’t ask for it during mine, but just in case)
- Comfortable clothes (avoid skirts!)
My Experience Seeing a Dentist in London
Overall I had a good experience seeing a dentist in London, with my biggest regret that I didn’t go sooner.
Once I decided to see a dentist in London I went to the NHS site, popped in my postcode and was able to get an initial consultation for the same week from the second dental practice I called.
After a short wait in the lobby, I was in!
I won’t lie, it wasn’t pretty. As someone who’s always been told I have a great smile and super white teeth on the outside, I neglected to take care of my teeth on the inside as much as I should’ve (like flossing everyday).
Because of that (and my love for sugary candy) I developed a cavity and was told I’d need a filling. I also made an appointment for a cleaning from their dental hygienist in the same appointment.
To be quite honest, some dental terms sound like straight up gibberish. So don’t be afraid to ask your dentist to simplify their diagnosis so you can fully understand what’s going on inside that mouth of yours.
You’ll also want to be prepared for additional costs. Although my consultation was only £23.80, by the end of the appointment I paid £180 for both the cleaning and the filling (£60 for the cleaning and £120 for a white filling).
If you need multiple fillings, a root canal or tooth extraction etc. this cost will of course only go up.
Final Thoughts on Seeing a Dentist in London
Although going to the dentist is daunting anywhere, the thought of figuring out the dental system in a new country can be difficult.
But hopefully this blog helps you navigate the system just a little bit easier so you can get back to exploring London with those pearly whites in no time! Until then…