A guide to dental health

Published on 21/9/2021
Reviewed on 25/9/2023 by Bryony Rhodes-Wort

Your questions about the dentist and your dental health, answered by our clinical team here at Simplyhealth.

What do we mean by 'dental'?

The term dental relates to everything to do with your teeth and mouth. Dental treatment addresses the health and maintenance of your teeth, gums, and overall oral health.

Differences between the dentist and hygienist

What does a dentist do?

Dentists are trained professionals, caring for your teeth and helping you to maintain healthy teeth and gums. They are highly skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of oral health problems, and in the prevention and treatment of diseases that affect your teeth and mouth.

 

It takes at least five years' training at a British dental school to become a dentist, and to work within the NHS they must then complete one year's Foundation Training at an approved dental practice. Once qualified, dentists regularly complete compulsory training and continuous professional development to keep up to date with new dental techniques, regulations and research. They can also gain further qualifications and training for more advanced knowledge or become a specialist in a certain area of dentistry.

 

Every dental health professional must register with the General Dental Council (GDC) upon qualification.

What does a hygienist do?

Dental hygienists examine patients for signs of oral diseases, such as gingivitis, and provide preventative care and treatment. They also educate and motivate their patients on how to care for their oral health, showing the best ways to keep teeth healthy and free of plaque.

 

It takes around three years to complete a GDC-approved diploma or degree programme. Once qualified, they must register with the General Dental Council (GDC) and continue to develop their skills and knowledge. Undertaking continuing professional development (CPD) is an essential part of maintaining their registration with the General Dental Council, and they have to spend at least 75 hours over a five-year period engaging in CPD activities relevant to their practice.

Dentist and patient discussing treatment plan using a tablet device

Do I need to visit the dentist?

When it comes to your health, prevention is always better than cure. And that is especially true for your oral health. Visiting the dentist regularly helps to keep your mouth healthy and can prevent dental problems from occurring.

 

You may feel like your teeth are perfectly fine, and you may have no pain or sensitivity. But that doesn't mean you don't need to see your dentist for a routine check-up. It's much better, and cheaper, to identify and rectify a problem before it escalates.

A patient signs the paperwork after having a dental appointment

How much does the dentist cost in 2023?

It all depends on the treatment you need and the type of dentist you visit.

NHS dentistry is split into three bands:

  • Band 1 costs £25.80, which covers examinations, diagnosis, and advice. It can also include x-rays and scale and polish if required. 
  • Band 2 costs £70.70. That includes all treatments in Band 1, as well as fillings, root canals, and extractions. 
  • Band 3 costs £306.80. This is for more complex work, such as crowns, dentures and bridges. 

NHS dentists also provide emergency treatment, which costs the same as Band 1. 

If you visit a private dentist, your costs will be different. You can check prices on your dentist's website or get in touch with them to find out more. Before any work, always find out how much it will cost. 

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What happens during a dental appointment?

Typically, during your appointment, your dentist will examine your teeth, gums and soft tissues. They will also check your neck and jaw area and take any radiographs (x-rays) if necessary.

They will discuss your general health, any changes in your medical history, lifestyle or problems since your last appointment. They can advise on your diet, smoking and alcohol use, as well as your brushing and flossing routines.

Your dentist will advise on how frequently you should come back and will recommend you to see a hygienist if it is deemed necessary.

How often should I have a dental check-up?

Every two years? No, wait, every six months? The truth is, it's different for everyone. Many assume you should visit the dentist for a check-up roughly every six months. But in reality, how often you need to visit the dentist varies from person to person.

We all know someone who hasn’t seen the dentist in years and ‘got away with it', then, on the other hand, we know a person who’s always needing dental work done.

It's all based on individual recommendations. After each visit, your dentist will let you know when you should come for your next check-up. They’ll base this on an analysis of your oral health and future risk of problems. On average, the time between dental check-ups can range from three to 24 months This may change over time as your oral health improves or declines with age.

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