Your relationship with your dentist is intimate. You need to feel comfortable allowing her or him to put their hands in your mouth, possibly give you injections or take a drill or scalpel blade to your body.
A convenient location is important. There are no restrictions on location when registering with an NHS dentist (unlike GP surgeries who can only register patients in their local catchment area). A convenient location might not just be near your home, it could be near your place of work or near a tram stop you can easily reach.
Technically, in the current NHS system, you are no longer registered with a single dentist. Instead you are accepted for each individual course of treatment. This means you can even “register” with more than one practice. However, be aware that most practices will give priority to patients who have attended regularly when booking appointments.
All NHS dentists charge the same fees set by the government for NHS treatment. The fees are heavily subsidised, and many people are partially or completely exempt from paying, so NHS dentistry is excellent value for money, and the same standard price with every dentist in England, Wales and Scotland respectively.
Many dentists will however, offer some cosmetic treatments beyond the scope of the NHS, as private treatment options. The prices for private treatment options vary from practice to practice, but cheaper does not necessarily mean better. Most cosmetic treatments are very time consuming for the dentist to provide and use expensive materials and so this is reflected in the cost.
Speed and Quality
There’s a saying that you have any two of Cheap, Fast and Quality, but not all three. The NHS is certainly cheap, so you are therefore left with the choice of fast treatment, quality treatment or a compromise between the two.
All dentists practising in the UK have undergone at least 5 years intense training before qualifying, and are required to continue learning throughout their careers. As a result all dentists should provide a minimum good and competent quality standard of care.
It can be an inconvenience that you may have to wait to get an appointment, or wait to see the dentist when you arrive for your appointment, but this can be a sign that the dentist is trying hard to provide the best quality treatment for their patients.
This is perhaps the most important factor in choosing a dentist and ultimately you will only know if you get on with your dentist and their team by attending an appointment. Some dentists will talk and give you advice more, while others may quicker and just get to the point. The same applies with the other members of your dentist’s team such as the receptionist, nurses, hygienist and therapist. If you don’t feel comfortable with your dental team, don’t be afraid of trying a different dentist until you find one you are comfortable with.