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Health Service dental treatment

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

How to find a Health Service dentist

If you want Health Service dental treatment, you first need to find out which dentists in your area provide Health Service treatment. Then you need to find one who is accepting new patients.

You can do this by going to the HSC Service Finder website at and searching for Dental Practices by entering your postcode.

You don’t need to register with a dentist in order to get Health Service treatment, but your dentist should keep a list of regular patients and provide ongoing treatment and care.

What treatment can you get on the Health Service

You’re entitled to any treatment that you need to maintain your dental health. This could include the fitting of crowns, bridges and dentures. The dentist will give you a treatment plan after your check up if you ask for it, which will show you what you need and the cost.

More details about Health Service dental fees are available on the NI Direct website:           

Your dentist may offer to do part of the work on your treatment plan or additional treatment privately. However, they should not pressure you into having treatment privately that is available on the Health Service. If your dentist tries to do this, you should complain.

Some treatment is not available on the Health Service and can only be done privately, for example, white fillings in back teeth.

If you have been getting Health Service treatment and need to start treatment for something that has to be done privately, you should be given a form to sign to say you agree to begin private treatment.

Who can get free Health Service dental treatment

You can get free dental treatment (including check ups) if you:

  • are aged under 18
  • are aged 18 and in full time education
  • are pregnant
  • have given birth in the last 12 months
  • are a hospital inpatient and the treatment is carried out by a hospital dentist
  • are getting, or your partner gets, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Universal Credit or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit
  • are entitled to, or named on, a valid tax credit exemption certificate
  • are a war pensioner and need the dental treatment test because of a disability for which you get a war pension
  • are a Hospital Dental Service out-patient
  • are a Community Dental Service patient.

Also, some people on low income, including some people getting tax credits, can get free Health Service dental treatment or treatment at a reduced cost by filling in the HC1 form. The HC1 form can be found on nidirect.

Can you change your dentist?

You can go to a different dentist at any time. You should let your dentist know and cancel any appointments. If you want to change dentists during a course of treatment, you may have to pay the first dentist for the treatment to date. It is always sensible to find a second dentist in advance who is prepared to complete a course of treatment already started by another dentist.

Can your dentist charge you for not keeping or cancelling an appointment?

A dentist is not entitled to charge you for cancelling an appointment. However, if you fail to turn up or cancel lots of appointments, they may charge you, and may even decide not to treat you.

Emergency Treatment

The Health and Social Care Board is responsible for commissioning out-of-hours emergency treatment. You will usually have to phone an emergency helpline first. General Dental Practices are required to provide registered patients with an out-of-hours telephone number where patients can speak to a dentist within a reasonable period.  Should the dentist decide treatment is required this should be provided within a reasonable period, normally 24 hours.

Complaints about dentists

If you want to complain about your dentist, you should complain to your local dental practice first. You can do this either by speaking to someone at the practice, or in writing. The dental practice must make a record of your complaint and look into it.

If you are not satisfied after this, you can appeal or refer the problem to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO). You can find details about NIPSO on their website:

You might also get help from the Patient and Client Council who can provide help and information in making a complaint. You can find details about the Patient and Client Council on their website:

Further Help

Local Citizens Advice

You can visit your nearest Citizens Advice - an adviser will talk to you about your options. 

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