Brush up on your rights before visiting the dentist, urges OFT

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The Office of Fair Trading has today launched a new campaign to help patients understand more about their rights when visiting the dentist.

The ‘Right to Smile’ campaign, which is supported by the British Dental Association, private dentistry providers and a number of consumer groups, has been launched to help patients make informed decisions, understand more about their entitlements to NHS treatment, and know what their options are if things go wrong.

An OFT study published earlier this year found that while the majority of patients are satisfied with their dentist, they do not always have the information to allow them to make informed decisions about their choice of dentist and treatments. A survey carried out as part of the OFT study also found that some patients might be getting the wrong information about their entitlements to NHS treatment and be paying higher prices for private treatment as a result.

The OFT is advising that if you have an NHS dentist:

You are entitled to a wide range of treatment that you need to get your mouth, teeth and gums as healthy and pain free as possible.

If your NHS dentist says you need a particular type of treatment, you shouldn’t be required to pay for it privately.

Private options may be discussed, such as cosmetic alternatives or specialist treatments like dental implants, it’s your choice whether you take them.
Even if your treatment involves a number of visits, you will only pay one charge for each complete course of NHS treatment, unless you’ve had to make an emergency visit to the dentist first.

Should NHS treatment fail within 12 months, your dentist should repair or redo most treatment free of charge, unless you were advised the treatment was unlikely to be a long-term solution.

Details on NHS dental charges in England are available at

If you opt for private dental treatment:

Ask what guarantees your dentist provides. In addition to any rights you may have under guarantee, you will also have rights under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.

Regardless of whether you have an NHS dentist or a private dentist you should receive a written treatment plan which includes the cost of any treatment your dentist has discussed with you, so you know in advance how much you’ll be expected to pay.

As part of the campaign the OFT has released a new film, available on its website and YouTube channel, and has produced an information leaflet.

Judith Frame, OFT Head of Campaigns, said:

‘While the UK has one of the highest standards of oral health in the world, and satisfaction levels among patients are high, our report found that people are often confused about what they’re expected to pay, and don’t always have the information they need about NHS entitlements, costs, and treatment options.

‘This campaign aims to help patients be clearer about what to expect, and more engaged when making decisions about their choice of dentist and treatments.’

Barry Cockcroft, Chief Dental Officer for England, said:

‘Giving patients good information is key to a high quality service.

We are delighted to support the Office of Fair Trading’s campaign. An extra one million new patients have visited an NHS dentist since 2010 and we are committed to improving access to dentistry further. This material will help patients make informed choices about their dental care.’

Health Minister Lord Howe said:

‘It is great to hear that the majority of patients are happy with their dental care but we know more can be done so that everyone can enjoy better oral health. It is right that patients know exactly what they can expect when they visit the dentist.’

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