As a immigrant living in the UK, I’ve never visited a British dentist… I know! Unfortunately I was having horrible tooth pain lately and finally needed to book an appointment with a UK dentist. Since I’ve never done it before, I really didn’t know what to expect (or how much it would cost).
Here’s my first experience visiting a UK dentist and some tips for your visit, too!
1. Search for local practices online
The first step is to actually find a local dentist. How did I do it? Simply by using Google! Because I currently don’t have a car in England, finding a dental practice that was within walking distance (or easy to get to via public transportation) was of vital importance. So in my instance, I was looking for the closest dentist that still looked good.
Another way to find a dentist is to search your local village, town or city’s Facebook Group. A lot of other people will have the same question and you can usually find posts where other locals are recommending (or not recommending) various dentists.
In addition, you could also ask co-workers or friends for dentist recommendations.
The NHS website also has a “Find a Dentist” feature that can be really helpful.
Since my situation was pretty urgent, I ended up choosing the closest dentist to me that had a good website, good overall reviews online and easy to get to.
2. Call the closest practices
Next up, you’ll want to call the practices that you’re most interested in. It’s good to have at least 2 to call, in case one has no available appointments or are not taking any new patients.
3. Book an appointment
Since I was going to book a Private dentist appointment (more on that below), I was able to get an appointment within 24 hours. While I was on the phone, I booked my appointment as well as paid £50 up front. This fee covers the cost of the appointment and general examination. However, if I was going to need further treatment, that would come with its own cost.
Shortly after getting off the phone, I was sent a medical questionnaire with all the usual questions:
- Basic medical history
- Important dental and/or medical history
- Anything the dentist should be aware of before your appointment
Now is a good time to remember to add “Dentist” to your budget to ensure you have money available should you need dental treatment.
4. During your appointment at the dentist
I arrived about 10 minutes before my appointment and checked-in with reception. I was directed to their waiting room until my dentist was ready. My appointment started right on time, which is always a blessing.
During my appointment, I explained what my issue was. The dentist checked my teeth and when they couldn’t tell what the issue was, they took some X-rays. Within minutes, my X-rays were displayed and again – no obvious issue.
The dentist then realised my pain was being caused by clenching my jaw. I know! My teeth looked good and while I was having pain, there was no issues with the teeth themselves. I have a history of clenching my teeth, too. How annoying! I asked some questions and the dentist answered them all.
I also made sure to ask what I should do if the pain doesn’t go away – important stuff to know just in case! In this instance, if the pain didn’t go away within a certain amount of time, they told me to come back and they would look at referring me to a specialist.
Thankfully the dentist was correct – the pain was from clenching my jaw too much. After making an effort to stop clenching, the pain eventually went away.
5. After your appointment at the dentist
After my appointment finished, I returned to reception. They didn’t need anything else from me, nor did I need to pay anything else above the £50 that I was charged initially for the appointment.
Before leaving, I booked the next available NHS appointment for a check-up. This wasn’t going to be for about 5 months, but at least I’ll have it.
Private vs NHS Dentists – what’s the difference?
As a foreigner in the UK, I never experienced Private dentists vs NHS dentists – so what’s the difference?
However, booking an NHS appointment can be really difficult. Practices do not accept patients whenever. If you don’t mind waiting, I would recommend booking the next available NHS appointment, and then schedule check-ups whenever the dentist recommends. Once you are listed as an NHS patient, you will continue to receive NHS appointments. If you happen to miss appointments, you may be removed from the NHS patient list, so be careful.
If you need to see a dentist right away and don’t mind paying, you can always book a private appointment. Most dentists seem to offer both.
In my case, my first exam was as a private patient, but I have my check-up booked as a NHS patient. After that appointment, I’ll make sure to book another check-up (or cleaning, etc) as an NHS patient so I can continue to receive those appointments.
Tip – when moving to a new area (or when you first move to the UK) make sure to find a dentist right away and sign up so you won’t be scrambling when you need them. This is also true for registering for a GP (what the Brits call their local doctor).
My experience with a UK dentist
Overall my first experience with a British dentist was very positive.
- I was able to book an appointment right away
- The practice was modern and clean
- Everyone was very pleasant and kind
- I never felt like I was being rushed out the door – all my concerns were handled and all my questions were answered
- My issue was solved! Much better to know what’s causing pain rather than ignoring it
- When attending a Private dentist appointment, it can be scary because you don’t know how much it may end up costing if you need further treatment
Overall I had a great experience and I’m happy that I went!