do students get free dental care
do students get free dental care

Do Students Get Free Dental Care? NHS vs Private Dentist Prices

Updated with current prices and information: 19/06/24

Do students get free dental care? It depends on where you live, as well as other factors.

If you do need to go to the dentist, it can be hard to decide whether to go down the NHS or private route and as a student, it can be tricky to want to part with money, even if it’s for something important like dentistry. However, whether you choose to go down the NHS route or go private, there will be some costs associated with dental care.

Here’s everything you need to know about free dental care for students, exemptions and how much you can expect to pay for treatments.

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Is dental care free for students?

In England, the dentist is free on the NHS for anyone under 18, or anyone who is 19 and in full-time education. This means that in your first or second year of uni, if you are between 18-19 you will be able to get free treatment. However, once you are 20+ you will not get free dental care, regardless of if you’re a student or not. However, there are some exceptions to this, such as if you’re pregnant or on a low income.

In Northern Ireland, the dentist is free to under 18s and those who are 18 and in full-time education, so similar to in England, you’ll not be able to see the dentist for free in your later years of university once you are 19+.

In Scotland and Wales, the dentist is free to students.

Do 19-year-old students pay for dental treatment?

No, in England if you’re 19 and in full-time education, you’re entitled to free dental care, but this will end when you turn 20. In Scotland and Wales, dental care is free to 19-year-olds, however, in Northern Ireland, 19-year-olds are not eligible for free treatment based on their age or student status alone.

do students get free dental care - dentist with tooth xray

Who is entitled to free dental care?

In England, you’re entitled to free dental treatments and examinations if you’re under 18, aged 18-19 and in full-time education, pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months or if you’re receiving low-income benefits. You also won’t have to pay if you’re being treated in an NHS hospital, rather than in a dentist surgery itself.

In Scotland, basic checkups are free for everyone, however, if you require more complex dental treatments you will need to pay. However, you will get completely free dental treatments on the NHS if you are under 26, are pregnant or have given birth in the last 12 months or if you have a low income and are receiving certain benefits.

In Wales, you can get a free basic examination if you are under 25 or over 60. You can get free further complex dental treatment if you are under 18, 18 and in full-time education, are pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months, you’re treated in an NHS hospital, or if you are on a low-income and receive certain benefits.

In Northern Ireland, you will get free dental care if you are under 18, 18 in full-time education, are pregnant or have had a child in the last 12 months, getting treatment in an NHS hospital or if you’re on a low income or receive certain benefits.

do students get free dental care - dentist with patient

NHS Low Income Scheme

The NHS low-income scheme allows those who have a low income to apply for an exemption certificate or money to pay for things such as prescriptions, dental care, sight tests and travelling to and from appointments. Students are eligible to apply for the scheme.

HC1 Form explained

A HC1 form is what you will need to complete in order to apply for the NHS low-income scheme. You can download and print the form online, or pick one up from job centres or NHS practices if you live in Scotland or Wales. The form asks you to fill out your personal details to help work out how much money you could be eligible for and what you need help with.

If you are employed you will need to provide proof of your earnings and proof of as well as proof of any benefits you may be receiving. Once you’ve filled out your form, the applications will normally be assessed within 18 working days of your form being received.

HC2 Certificate

A HC2 certificate is what may be issued to you after you’ve completed a HC1 form. It is an exemption certificate which gives you full help for health costs. If you have a HC2 certificate you will be entitled to free dental care, free prescriptions, free sight tests, free wigs and help with the costs of glasses and contact lenses as well as help with the costs of travelling to and from NHS appointments.

HC3 Certificate

A HC3 certificate is an exception certificate that gives you limited help with the costs of NHS treatment, rather than full help like a HC2 certificate does. With a HC3 certificate, you’ll get help towards the costs of dental treatment, sight tests, wigs and travelling to and from NHS treatments. Once you apply using your HC1 form you may be eligible for a HC3 certificate.

dental care - do students get free dental care

Private dentist vs NHS prices

When it comes to free dental care for students, once you hit 19+ you will normally need to pay for your treatment. There are 3 bands when it comes to the cost of treatment on the NHS if you’re not eligible for free dental care.

Band 1– £26.80, this covers the cost of a basic examination and check-up as well as a diagnosis, x-rays and a scale and polish if needed.

Band 2– £73.50, this covers everything in band 1 as well as further treatment including non-surgical gum treatment, fillings, tooth removal and root-canal work.

Band 3– £319.10, this covers everything in band 1-2 as well as more complex treatments including bridges, crowns, orthodontic treatment and dentures.

Urgent treatment — £26.80 which covers urgent treatment for any pain and includes things like x-rays, teeth dressing, fixing teeth, aftercare, etc.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the same banding system is in place to those who have to pay for the dentist. In Wales, the same banding system is in place however, band 1 costs £20, band 2 costs £60 and band 3 costs £260.

Private dentists will set their prices individually, however, here’s an example of the type of prices you could expect to pay if you do go private vs the NHS bands.

TreatmentNHS BandNHS PricePrivate Price
Consultation or check-upBand 1£26.80£20-£120
X-RaysBand 1£26.80£5-£40
Scale and polishBand 1£26.80£25-£85
Metal fillingsBand 2£73.50£30-£175
White fillings/compositesBand 2£73.50£40-£250
Root canalBand 2£73.50£45-£970
Tooth removalBand 2£73.50£50-£370
CrownsBand 3£319.10£250-£1,180
DenturesBand 3£319.10£355-£2,520
free dentist care

I need braces but can’t afford them

If you need braces, there are a few options you could consider. Most people get braces as a teenager, as this is the recommended age to get them, and they will be free on the NHS while you’re under 18.

However, if you’re 18+ and are unhappy with your teeth but can’t afford to go private, or the NHS costs for adult braces you could consider an aligner or retainer instead. Schemes like Invisalign can help to straighten your teeth and you can often get payment plans for them to equally split the costs.

Are braces available on the NHS?

Yes, braces are available on the NHS to anyone under 18, which is normally the recommended age to get braces. Braces are usually not free on the NHS for those over 18, but this is based on individual circumstances and may be approved if it’s needed for health reasons.

Do dentists do payment plans?

No, NHS dentists do not offer payment plans, however, if you need support with paying for treatment you can apply for the NHS low-income scheme. However, private dentists will often offer payment plans. This will depend on your dentist and the treatment you are receiving, but the costs of going to a private dentist will often be much higher than on the NHS, but, if you can’t pay the full cost upfront you will normally be able to spread the cost into equal and affordable monthly instalments.

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