Everything you need to know about how your NHS dental care is changing, Scotland

CHANGES TO NHS DENTAL CARE

Frequently Asked Questions

You may be aware that the Scottish Government has changed the way in which NHS dental care is delivered in Scotland. These changes came into effect on the 1st November 2023 and apply to all NHS patients. To help you understand what these changes mean for you and your family as patients of Hannigan Dental Care, we have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Q. Will I still get my check-up every 6 months?

A. Unfortunately, patients are no longer entitled to check-ups every 6 months on the NHS. Instead, patients will be seen either every 12, 18 or 24 months depending on their risk of developing dental diseases such as decay, gum disease or oral cancers. Your dentist will assess your risk status as either HIGH RISK (12 monthly exams); MODERATE RISK (18 monthly exams); or LOW RISK (2 yearly exams) at your next check-up appointment and advise you accordingly.

Q. What determines my risk status?

A. Your risk status is based upon assessment of multiple factors, for example: how often and how well you brush your teeth; your dietary habits; smoking status; alcohol consumption; general health; your past experience of dental disease; and behavioural habits. To help us build a better understanding of your risk status we will be sending you a quick questionnaire to complete before each check-up appointment. You should receive a link to complete this questionnaire, along with an updated medical history, in a text message a few days prior to your appointment. Please try to answer all questions as honestly as possible and remember to advise us if you change your mobile number. Don’t worry if you do not possess a smart phone, we can also run through these questions with you in person if needs be.

Q. Can my risk status change?

A. Yes, your risk status (and thus how often you are invited to attend for check-ups) may change if your behaviour/habits change, e.g., if your oral hygiene and motivation improves you may drop from high risk (12 monthly assessments) to low risk (24 monthly assessments). Alternatively, if your dietary habits change and you start consuming significantly more sugar in your diet or you take up smoking you may find your risk status changes from low risk (24 monthly) to high risk (12 monthly assessments). Your dentist will re-assess you at each examination to determine your individual risk status at that specific moment in time, but going forward you should be prepared for the possibility that it could change along with your recall interval. This may mean you can no longer attend for ‘family check-ups’ with everyone in the household getting seen at the same time, as it is possible different members of the family will have a different risk status from one another and thus be eligible for different check-up intervals. Whilst we appreciate this may cause inconvenience, these rules have been set by the Scottish Government and are out with our control.

Q. Will my children still receive a 6 monthly check-up?

A. Under the new model of care introduced by the Scottish Government, there is no longer a distinction between children and adult patients. Consequently, children are also only entitled to check-up appointments at either 12/18/24 month intervals. At Hannigan Dental Care, we still want to see children more often than this. The habits we set in childhood will determine the health of our mouths for the rest of our lives and so it is vital that we instil good patterns of behaviour from as early as possible. Our team passionately believe prevention is of key importance in setting our children up for healthy behaviours in later life, so at HDC we will still be inviting all patients aged under 18 years to attend 6-monthly, with appointments alternating between a formal check-up with their dentist and an enhanced prevention appointment with our dental therapist, Alicia Dillon. At each appointment, children will receive preventative advice in relation to toothbrushing technique and dietary habits, as well as fluoride varnish applications and other preventative treatments such as fissure sealants, where appropriate. If a child is identified as being at particularly high risk of developing dental disease, they will be offered the choice of attending for 3-monthly preventative advice and treatments with our therapist.

Q. What if I still want to attend 6-monthly?

A. We would not discourage anyone who wishes to continue to attend 6-monthly check-ups, however the new model of care enforced by the Scottish Government does not allow us to do so on the NHS. If you still wish to attend on a 6-monthly basis, you do have alternative options:

  • You may wish pay for a check-up appointment privately. The fee for a check-up appointment with the dentist is £46. You can attend private examination appointments in between your NHS check-ups without it affecting your NHS registration at the practice. For example, a high-risk patient could attend their NHS exam (free), then attend a private exam 6 months later (chargeable at £46), then attend for an NHS exam (free) 6 months later, and so on.
  • If you wish your child to continue to be seen by a dentist every 6 months, children can also book private check-up appointments. The fee for these appointments is also £46, although this is inclusive of preventative treatments such as fluoride varnish application, dietary counselling and toothbrush coaching.
  • Alternatively, you may wish to join one of our dental payment plans. Both Denplan Care and Denplan Essentials dental plans offer the peace of mind of attending for regular, 6-monthly check-ups with your dentist, as well as 3 or 6-monthly hygiene sessions, depending upon your chosen plan. Plans start from as little as £16.15 per month with discounts available if multiple members of the same household join. If you would like more information on the additional benefits of our dental plans you can visit our website at https://hannigandentalcare.co.uk/dental-payment-plan/ or you can email our Treatment Coordinator, Pamela Gavin, at pamelag@hannigandentalcare.co.uk or phone/text/whatsapp her directly on 07541100656 and she will be happy to talk you through the options and which plan is best suited to you.

Q. Does this mean the practice is going private?

A. No, Hannigan Dental Care remains a mixed dental practice and will continue to offer both NHS and private options to all our patients, same as we did previously. Principal dentist, Pearse Hannigan, is no longer treating adults on the NHS and any patients previously registered with Pearse on the NHS will now have received a letter advising them that their NHS care will now be delivered by one of the associate dentists, Kris Kirkcaldy. Any adult patients who wish to continue to see Pearse can only do so on a private basis.

Q. How do I book my next appointment?

A.  We will no longer be booking in future NHS check-up appointments as we feel it is unreasonable to expect anyone to remember appointments booked for, potentially, 2 years in advance. Instead, your name will be added to a recall list and when you are eligible to return for your next check-up, we will contact you to make an appointment at a time that is convenient to you. Contact will initially be made via email, so it is essential that you confirm we hold the correct email address for you and that you have added us to your ‘safe contacts’ such that these messages, along with your appointment reminders, estimates and consent forms, do not go into your junk folder.

Denplan and private patients, who will continue to attend for 6-monthly check-ups, will still be able to book in their next check-up appointment as normal.

Q. Will I still be able to get my teeth cleaned on the NHS?

A. The way in which gum disease is treated on the NHS is also changing. Treatment will now be more patient-specific and your entitlement to ‘cleans’ will depend upon your own personal experience of gum disease. Previously, all adult patients were eligible to request cleans every 3 months on the NHS, regardless of their gum condition. As of 1st November 2023, however, patients with either no or early gum disease, aka ‘gingivitis’ will now be eligible for a simple clean at their check-up appointment at either 12/18/24-month intervals depending upon their risk status. Patients with active, or advanced, gum disease will still be encouraged to attend for more regular treatment, however they should be aware the cost of providing treatment for gum disease on the NHS has been increased by the Scottish Government. Your dentist will be able to explain your specific entitlements at your next check-up appointment, but again it is worth bearing in mind that this will change if your risk status changes, e.g. if you respond well to treatment you will move on to a maintenance phase and will no longer receive treatment as frequently as when you were undergoing active treatment.

Q. What can I do if I want my teeth cleaned more often than I’m entitled to on the NHS?

A. We know lots of you like having your teeth cleaned and polished regularly and appreciate the importance of healthy gums, so please be assured you can still book an appointment to have your teeth cleaned with one of our hygienists as often as you wish. Healthy gums are important for our general health, and we would encourage patients to attend regularly for cleans to stop tartar building up to such levels that it becomes unpleasant for you to have it removed. Hygiene sessions last 30 minutes and cost £57, or £67 if you wish to include an airflow polish. In addition to cleaning away plaque and tartar, hygiene sessions also include personalised toothbrush coaching and demonstrations as well as sizing for interdental cleaning aids. It’s worth while remembering children can also book appointments with the hygienist and these appointments are particularly beneficial for any teenagers undergoing orthodontic treatment where their braces are making it more difficult to keep their teeth clean and the gums are suffering as a result.

It is also worthwhile remembering all of our Denplans include either 2 or 4 hygiene visits per year, as standard, along with your 6-monthly check-ups.

To help make hygiene as accessible as possible we can offer late night appointments on Mondays, 2-8pm, and all day on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Q. Is the cost of my dental treatment going to change?

A. Yes, you will notice some changes to the cost of treatments. Check-ups will remain free for all, but the fees for all other treatments have risen. For example, the cost for a check-up, pair of routine x-rays and a simple clean was previously £18.60. As of 1st November 2023, the cost is now £26.72. The maximum patient charge for a course of NHS treatment remains unchanged, however, at £384. As always, you will be issued with an estimate explaining the fees associated with your treatment plan and a revised fee guide is on display in reception. You can also find more information at https://www.nhsinform.scot/care-support-and-rights/nhs-services/dental/receiving-nhs-dental-treatment-in-scotland#dental-treatment-costs

Q. Can I still receive the same range of treatments on the NHS?

A. Yes, the types of treatment available remains largely unchanged although the coding structure has been streamlined. The main exception is a veneer, which is no longer available on the NHS unless replacing an existing broken veneer. As previously discussed, check-ups are still available but not as often as they were previously and the frequency with which you are entitled to a clean will now depend on the severity of your gum disease so you may not be able to receive these as often as you did previously.

Q. What should I do if I have a problem/emergency in between check-ups?

A. If you have a dental problem or indeed an emergency in between check-ups, you should still phone reception to arrange an appointment as you would have done previously. Please do be aware, however, that the Scottish Government has now introduced a fee of £15.68 for the provision of unscheduled care.

Q. I’m not happy with the changes, how can I complain?

A. As a Practice we wish to stress this new model of NHS care has been introduced by the Scottish Government and is entirely out with our control. It is the same rules for all NHS practices across Scotland, although you need to remember that your risk status is personalised, which is why your entitlement may appear different to someone you know at a different practice. If you are struggling to understand any of the changes and wish more information or further explanation, please feel free to email us at hannigandentalcare@gmail.com. If you wish to complain about the system itself, you should direct any grievances towards your local MP or MSP as dental practices do not have any power to change the rules.