Patient information about seeing a dentist

This guide provides some information about seeing a dentist at this current time.
Dentist looking at a dental x-ray

On this page you will find advice and information about seeing an NHS dentist, including current costs, exemptions and the impact of COVID-19 on NHS services.

In February 2021, Healthwatch England announced a dental crisis as a result of local Healthwatch, including Brighton and Hove, sharing concerns from local people trying to access dental services during the pandemic. You can read more about this by clicking here and also read about the impact which COVID has had on dental services here.

Please be assured Healthwatch Brighton and Hove is aware of the issues that are affecting many people, and we continue to gather and feedback your concerns to those responsible for delivering dental services. You can read about our work here.

Patient guides to NHS dentistry. 

At the end of this webpage you can find patient guides which explain what dental services do and do not offer. Healthwatch has produced a guide which explains current costs (correct as of June 2021), exemptions from costs, what NHS dental treatment does and doesn't include, and emergency dental treatment. You can also find guides produced by the NHS, including an Easyread guide. 

Key messages

  • You can contact any of the 43 dental practices in our city. You do not have to be registered with a dentist to seek treatment.

  • Face to face dental appointments are happening but the number of available appointments has been significantly reduced due to COVID-19 and the range of hygiene and safety measures that practices are required to follow in order to keep patients and staff safe.

  • When you call up, staff will assess your request (triage). You may be offered a phone call with a dentist if they cannot see you in person, and this may result in you being offered advice, pain relief or antibiotics.

  • If you require urgent or emergency medical help. When calling a practice you are advised not to ask if the practice is taking on new NHS patients as that may be interpreted as a request for non-urgent care.  Instead, you should explain that you have an urgent dental need. It is advisable to tell the receptionist what impact(s) your dental problem is having i.e., causing difficulties eating.

  • Dental practices have told us that they do not have the capacity at the moment to take on new patients unless it is for urgent care. Waiting lists for non-urgent care are up to 6 months long.
  • However, if you are struggling to find an NHS dentist who will see you for urgent treatment then you are advised to make a complaint. For details of how to do this please see the section below.

When seeing a dentist

  • You should always confirm with the dentist what the costs of your dental treatment plans will be, and whether the treatment being offered is either NHS or private care before proceeding.


To find dental practices near you

  • Use the NHS website or call Sussex Dental Helpdesk on 0300 123 1663 (Monday – Friday 8 am – 4 pm). 

  • If after contacting several dental surgeries and the Helpdesk and you still cannot find a dentist accepting NHS patients, call NHS England's Customer Contact Centre on 0300 311 2233.

  • A dentist may make a referral for you to one of the Urgent Dental Care Hubs in Sussex. Please note that you cannot self-refer to one of these Hubs. You can be referred to a Hub for urgent dental treatment if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or are vulnerable or shielding, although you will be seen at dedicated sites only. Some Hubs are based outside of Brighton, but support is available to help you travel to these sites.

If you require urgent dental treatment you can contact one of the following out of hours services:

Brighton and Hove - If your own dentist is closed;

  • the Emergency Dental Service will give you an appointment at one of several practices around Brighton and Hove. Contact: 03001 231663 (09:00-17:00 Monday to Friday).
  • iDental Care Limited offers emergency NHS out of hours dental service. Call: 03000 242548 (17:30-22:30 Monday-Friday, 9:00-17:30 weekends)

Crawley – 01293 518541

Worthing – 01903 230364

Chichester – 01243 793697

Haywards Heath – 01444 440695

Home care

We have also produced some advice about how to deliver self-care for common dental issues such as toothache, wisdom teeth pain, ulcers, lost crowns and knocked-out teeth. This is available as a guide at the end of this webpage.

Additional NHS services

We have been told by the NHS that additional services are now starting.

We have been provided with details of practices offering additional NHS services, but these are in West and East Sussex only - please see the guide at the bottom of this page.

Once we have received information about practices offering these additional services in Brighton and Hove, we will update this page.

Making a complaint

If you are unable to find a local dentist who will see you, and NHS England has been unable to help you find a dentist then you should raise your concerns about this by contacting them on:

If you're still not satisfied with NHS England's response, you can take your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.


Complaining about your treatment

Your first step is to make a complaint directly with the dental practice. It is best to do this in writing or by email, so that you will receive a written reply. Remember to explain what happened and when, and what outcome you would like. If you are not happy with the response you get:

Should you have any questions or require further information please contact us by email:


You can download more information here, but if you need it in a different format, please contact us at:

01273 234 041

Patient guide to seeing a dentist, July 2021
Additional dental services
NHS guide to seeing a dentist
NHS guide to seeing a dentist - EASYREAD

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