As great as the NHS is, its dental coverage can sometimes lead a lot to be desired. They mostly only cover the very basic procedures and treatments that will help to keep your teeth and gums healthy, and it’s only free up until you turn 18.
So, what can you do if you need dental implants but can’t afford to go private?
To get free dental implants in the UK, ask your dentist if you qualify for NHS treatment. However, this is typically only open to those with medical needs and not covered as a cosmetic option. Other routes include dental research trials and dentistry schools, though both are difficult to attain.
The rest of this article will cover a few ways you can get dental implants for free in the UK and how to apply for each possible route. I’ll be honest – many of these are a long shot, but considering that implants can be astronomically expensive in the UK, it’s certainly worth a try!
Can I Get Free Dental Implants on the NHS?
It is possible to get free dental implants on the NHS if you “have a clear medical need”. Otherwise, you will need to pay out of pocket at a private clinic. Sometimes, implants may be available to people on certain benefits or in other situations, but this is rare.
You might have seen implants mentioned in NHS literature and wondered if you’re eligible. Most of us already know that the NHS provides free dental coverage for children under 18, expectant mothers, and people on certain benefits, including their spouses and dependents – but this is usually “standard” dental procedures like fillings or checkups.
For everyone else, there is a simple three-band system with subsidised pricing. But, unfortunately, dental implants are rarely covered. When they are, they’re in the third and most expensive band and cost just under £300 each, in addition to the initial examination and likely X-rays (Source: NHS Services).
Still, this is a significantly reduced price compared to a private dentist who may charge anywhere between £1,400 and £3,600.
Who Qualifies for Free Dental Implants on the NHS?
So how do you prove that you have a clear medical need to qualify for free dental implants on the NHS?
Each individual’s circumstances might vary, but may include one or more of the following:
- You were in an accident and suffered facial trauma, and the accident wasn’t your fault.
- You had an illness that caused the issue, such as cancer.
- You can prove that you cannot wear or are not a suitable candidate for dentures.
- You do not have or have lost your teeth and are under 40 years of age.
If you think you might qualify, ask your own dentist first. If you’re not registered with one, start by using this search tool to find your closest NHS dentist. Most will state if they are taking new patients, though you may need to call as some do not regularly update their information (source: NHS Find a Dentist).
Sadly, it’s very rare to get dental implants through the NHS. This is partly due to the overall cost and also because of the intricacies of the procedure itself. In most cases, NHS dentists will look to dentures instead as a more permanent and fixed solution.
What if you don’t qualify? The good news is that some options are available to those who don’t meet the NHS’s criteria and can’t afford to go private, and I’ll discuss these next.
Free Dental Implants Via a UK Clinical Trial
In some situations, clinical trials test the use of new materials and procedures for dental implants. In these cases, it is possible to get free treatment, including dental implants, if you get in at the right time.
Such trials are often performed in dental schools and teaching hospitals, which we will cover in the next section.
Alternatively, the National Institute for Health Research has a simple search bar through which you can research relevant trials. Simply type “dental implant” into the search bar followed by your city or postcode on their site.
If you don’t mind driving for the trial, you can leave the second box blank and see what related trials are available throughout the UK.
The National Institute for Health Research also has a newsletter you can sign up for, which will inform you of any and all trials they may have coming up. So, if you are not in pain, it might be worth waiting until a trial opens up (Source: NIHR Newsletter).
Free Implants Via Dental Students or Schools in the UK
You may or may not be aware that some hairdressing, barber, and cosmetology schools offer free or reduced prices to those willing to have treatments performed by students.
Dentistry is no different in that regard, and there are several schools all over the UK offering free or lower-priced dentist treatments. These are very often attached to a University, so if you have a major university near you, then check if they offer these kinds of services.
Some schools have rigorous criteria, and others only take patients for more simple procedures, such as fillings.
For example, Guy’s and St Thomas’ students can only perform simple procedures, and implants are never on their list (Source: NHS Guy’s and St Thomas’) – but others may start training their dentists on implants, so you have to keep an eye on all the popular dental schools, to see if it comes up.
To get a spot in a dentistry school, you will need to find the closest to your home and either research on their website or call ahead to ask about the kind of patients they accept. Though some will take patients from outside their area, others specify that you must live locally.
Also, keep in mind that these types of procedures will be performed by students. Although, of course, there will be a teacher monitoring at all times, expect the treatment to take longer than it usually would.
In addition, you may struggle to find a school with open spots. Due to the lower pricing and offer of free treatments, spots are typically very limited, and for implants, the spaces will always fill up quickly.
Overall, although challenging, it is possible to get free dental implants in the UK, such as by contacting dentistry schools. I hope you found this article helpful and that you can use the resources provided to find the treatment you need – or at least get on a waiting list if you’re prepared to be patient!