Can you get dental implants on the NHS? The short answer is ‘yes', but there's a lot more to it than that. The UK's National Health Service does provide teeth implants, but only in certain cases.
If you've been researching the best way to replace missing teeth, you'll know that dental implants are a permanent, long-lasting option. You'll also know that teeth implant costs in the UK make them unaffordable for many people.
So, it's unsurprising that so many Brits are wondering whether dental implants are available on the NHS, and if so, how to get them. Here, we'll take a look at the criteria for NHS dental implants and what you can do to increase your chances of being accepted. We also explain the cost of dental implants on the NHS, and look at some other ways to lower the price of this treatment.
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Can you get dental implants on the NHS?
Yes, the NHS offers dental implants in certain circumstances, to people who have a clear medical need. But many people who would like NHS implants will not be eligible. They must settle for available dental treatments or opt for private care. The high cost of implant treatment means there is a lot of demand and only a limited budget to supply them, so patients must be prioritised according to their medical needs.
This guide, published by the Royal College of Surgeons in 2019, lays out the eligibility criteria for NHS-funded dental implants. It's 20 pages long, so below we'll summarise the key points. You can watch the video below for an even shorter answer:
NHS dental implants criteria
The main patient groups who will be prioritised for dental implants on the NHS are as follows:
Those with missing or malformed teeth because of inherited, genetic conditions
People with congenitally missing teeth (hypodontia) make up a significant proportion of NHS dental implant patients. Those missing multiple teeth will be prioritised, while those with a single missing tooth may be offered a bridge instead. A cleft palate or lip can also result in missing teeth.
There are other rare genetic conditions that cause imperfections in tooth size, shape and structure. These teeth may not be suitable to support a bridge or denture for other missing teeth or may need to be extracted.
Finally, people with inherited aggressive periodontitis often lose their teeth early in life. Once the condition is under control, they may be able to get implants.
Those who have lost teeth because of trauma
This is another common reason that patients may be referred for NHS implants. Significant facial trauma can damage teeth, gum tissue and supporting bone, resulting in immediate or eventual tooth loss. However, there's no guarantee that you will be accepted for dental implants on the NHS after trauma, as the guidelines still recommend exploring conventional tooth replacement methods first.
Those who have lost teeth because of other medical treatments
People with head and neck cancer and certain other conditions may have to have teeth removed as part of their treatment. Additionally, chemotherapy is known to affect the salivary glands and this, in turn, may worsen existing tooth decay and other oral health problems. In the case of tooth loss for any of these reasons, patients may be eligible for NHS teeth implants.
Those who are missing all their teeth in one or both jaws and can't wear dentures
The guidelines acknowledge that patients who are edentulous (have no teeth) in one or both jaws may have trouble wearing dentures because of changes to the shape of their jaw bone. However, to be considered on this basis the patient must first be assessed by an expert in restorative dentistry or prosthodontics. This expert will check that their dentures are technically a good fit, and confirm that all conventional options have been exhausted and deemed unsuccessful.
In other words, you can't apply just because you don't like wearing dentures; only if you are physically unable to wear them.
There are some other categories, such as people with extreme dry mouth and those who need an implant as an anchor for orthodontic work. If you think you may be eligible on some other basis, you can speak to your dentist.
Other considerations for eligibility
As well as meeting one of the criteria above, patients must satisfy certain other conditions before they will be considered for dental implants on the NHS. They must:
- Be registered with a general dentist to receive regular checkups and ongoing care
- Have no untreated tooth decay, gum disease or failing restorations
- Comply with the care needed to maintain good oral hygiene
- Be a non-smoker
Smoking and tobacco use is known to increase the chances of complications and failure in dental implants. If you have been a smoker in the past, you may still be considered if you have not smoked for three months or more. But if you're found to be smoking during your implant treatment, it may be suspended until you quit again.
Your age may also influence whether you are accepted, and on what level of priority. Generally, implants won't be placed before the age of 18 because the face is still developing. There is no upper age limit for dental implants on the NHS, but your ability – both mental and physical – to care for your teeth in the future will be taken into consideration.
In addition, any of the following may mean a patient is not deemed a good candidate. This may be because of a greater risk of complications or an inability to comply with oral care requirements:
- Poorly controlled diabetes
- Active bisphosphonate treatment
- Mental health issues
- Blood, bone and immunodeficiency disorders
- Poor dental health
- Bruxism (teeth grinding)
Can you get All-on-4 dental implants on the NHS?
The All-on-4 system uses just four implants to secure a full set of false teeth. This is a popular solution for people wanting to save money on full mouth implants, but it is rarely offered on the NHS.
If you are missing all your teeth in one or both jaws, you are more likely to get denture implants on the NHS with just two implants securing an overdenture. The implants don't take the full biting force – your gums still bear some pressure – but they do keep the dentures securely in place.
How much do dental implants cost on the NHS?
We've explained the eligibility criteria, but how much are teeth implants on the NHS? They are charged according to standard NHS dental fees. For some people, this means NHS dental implants are free. Others will have to pay fees of:
- £282.80 in England (the Band 3 treatment fee)
- £203 in Wales (the Band 3 treatment fee)
- £384 in Scotland and Northern Ireland (the maximum charge)
These fees apply per treatment course, so whether you need a single tooth implant or a full mouth, you'll pay the same.
Note that once your treatment is complete, you will be responsible for the cost of regular checkups and any follow-up treatment you may need. If you later need a replacement crown or one of your implants fails, there is no guarantee that the NHS will fund a replacement.
How to apply for dental implants on the NHS
If this all sounds promising so far, it's best to visit your usual NHS dentist for an initial assessment. If they agree that you meet the criteria, they will refer you for a further assessment by the local facility providing the implants. Some dental hospitals allow you to apply directly, but since there is no centralised process for applying for NHS dental implants in the UK, it's best to go via your dentist.
You can expect to wait several months between your initial referral and your next assessment. If you are accepted, dental implant waiting lists can be well over a year. If you don't want to wait this long to replace your missing teeth, you'll need to consider private treatment.
It's worth noting that each local NHS Foundation Trust has its own guidelines for referrals. Although the criteria mentioned above are national guidelines, the exact requirements and exclusions in each area can vary. Each local area is subject to its own funding restrictions, too.
Other ways to fund your teeth implants
If you aren't eligible for dental implants on the NHS, or just don't want to wait years for them, you'll need to look at ways of funding them yourself.
Because of the high cost of implants in the UK – £2,300 each or more on average – a popular option is to look at travelling abroad for dental work. Countries like Turkey, Hungary and Spain have developed an excellent reputation for high-quality dental treatment at 50-70% less than you'd pay in the UK. So, even factoring in the cost of flights and accommodation, it can mean a big saving; especially if you need costly treatment like All-on-4.
To find out more about how this works, visit Dentaly Go. Their dental tourism service puts you in touch with reputable dental clinics abroad that meet strict quality standards. Alternatively, fill in your details below to request a free quote.
There are some risks involved with travelling abroad, of course. You can read our full dental tourism guide to learn more about the pros and cons.
If you'd rather stay closer to home, it's certainly worth getting quotes from a few different dentists, since there can be considerable variation between practices. Our cheap dental implants page has more tips for finding a good price. A loan or payment plan could also help make your treatment more affordable.
It may even be possible to get free dental implants by volunteering for a clinical trial or approaching a dental school, but these opportunities are few and far between.
Alternative NHS treatments
People missing one, several or all of their teeth do have other options for NHS teeth replacements.
Dentures are the most common solution as they are relatively cheap and incredibly versatile. They can be used to replace any number of teeth and should look quite natural. Some people do have problems wearing dentures, but often a reline or good denture adhesive can help them fit more securely.
There is also the option of a dental bridge to replace a single tooth or two in a row. This is a fixed, long-term restoration, but the downside is that some healthy enamel must be removed from the anchor teeth. If you're planning to get a tooth implant in the future, a bridge may not be the best option as you'll then need to crown the adjacent teeth.
These restorative solutions should be available to any NHS patients who need them, so they are much easier to access than teeth implants.
The simple way to know if you can get dental implants on the NHS is to ask yourself this: Are you missing teeth for reasons beyond your control, like a medical condition or an accident or injury? In this case, you may well be able to get NHS implants; you'll just have to be patient about going through the system.
If you need implants because of poor oral health in the past, you are less likely to be a good candidate. Smokers are also unlikely to be considered. You can still ask your dentist, but chances are your only option will be private treatment, or an alternative NHS treatment.
Royal College of Surgeons: Guidance on the Standards of care for NHS-funded dental implant treatment 2019. Consulted 28th January 2020
British Dental Journal: The provision of dental implants: current practice among university and hospital specialists in restorative dentistry within the UK and Ireland. Consulted 28th January 2020
Royal College of Surgeons of England Annals: Does the Referral and Selection for NHS-Funded Dental Implant Treatment in the UK Follow National Guidelines? Consulted 28th January 2020
Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry: Smoking and dental implants. Consulted 28th January 2020