Finding dental care during the pandemic

Access to dental care is a big problem so we've put together a guide to help local people.
Photo of dentist and patient

One of the most common queries we get on the Healthwatch Reading helpline is from people having problems finding an NHS dentist in Reading. This is a nationwide issue made worse by the pandemic. Here's a summary of our advice to local people:

Why is it so hard to see a dentist during the Covid pandemic?

The government has brought in new rules requiring dental practices to clean more often and ensure social distancing in waiting and treatment areas. This has cut the number of available daily appointments. The government has also told dentists to focus on urgent cases, creating a backlog of people waiting to be seen for less serious problems or regular check-ups.

Do I need to be registered with an NHS dentists to get help?

If you’re not registered with an NHS dentist and feel you need urgent help, you can contact any dentist and ask if they can help. Even if they’re not taking on new patients, they may still be able to see you as a one-off. However, this will depend on their capacity and you may need to spend time ringing around many dentists.

Where can I find a list of NHS dentists in Reading?

Use the Find a Dentist tool on the NHS website.

What happens if I can’t find an NHS dentist for urgent help?

Call NHS 111 or use the NHS 111 Online service. They may refer you to a local Urgent Dental Centre or advise you about pain relief and self-care.

Can I go to A&E for help with an urgent dental problem?

The NHS website says only for very serious problems. Call 111 if you’re not sure.

Do I have to pay for urgent dental care at a dentist?

Yes: urgent NHS dental care costs £23.80, under the national list of NHS dental fees (some people are exempt – see this NHS webpage for details). Private urgent dental care costs vary and could cost more than £100.  Dentists can offer both NHS and private care, so make sure to be clear on which type you want and ask for details of charges upfront.

What if I'm still unhappy?

NHS dental care is arranged by NHS England so you can raise concerns or complaints by phoning them on 0300 311 22 33 or go to its webpage for more information.

What is Healthwatch Reading doing to help local people?

We have raised the issue with our national body Healthwatch England, which has launched a ‘Fix NHS dentistry’ campaign to lobby government to get dental services back on track.

Where can I get more advice on dental care?

Call us on 07786 476 257 if you need assistance with any of the steps listed above.

You can also contact the Oral Health Foundation, a national charity with a helpline and advice on keeping teeth healthy.

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