Dentistry – A Healthwatch guide to your rights and accessing the treatment you need

This Healthwatch guide provides information about seeing a dentist and explains your rights
Dentist looking at a dental x-ray

Over the last 18 months, dentistry has been the second most common reason people have contacted Healthwatch Brigthon and Hove. Reasons have included challenges accessing dentistry services during the lockdown, problems finding NHS dentists accepting new patients and delays getting access to emergency dental treatment.

One of the key lessons for Healthwatch has been that many members of the public, including those who regularly attend dental services, are not clear on what dentistry services are available via the NHS, what treatment is included and what charges apply.

In response, Healthwatch across Sussex (Brighton & Hove, East Sussex and West Sussex) have worked together with local dental organisations on a detailed guide to help everyone get the treatment they need.

This explains:

  • The impact of COVID-19 on NHS dental appointments
  • The difference between NHS and private dental care
  • How to find and register with an NHS dentist
  • NHS dental charges and exemptions (correct as at June 2021)
  • How to feedback or complain about a dental service
  • Useful links and emergency dental services

We hope the full guide will answer most of your questions about NHS dental care. There are also some useful tips about keeping teeth and gums healthy.

If you do not have time to read the whole guide you can find the basic essentials in our shorter 'What you need to know' leaflet.

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.

Struggling to find NHS dental treatment?

  • Dental practices are not working at full capacity at the moment due to COVID-19 which is affecting their ability to see new patients for NHS treatment, unless it is for urgent care. Waiting lists for non-urgent care are up to 6 months long.

  • You can contact any of the 43 dental practices in our city. You do not have to be registered with a particular dentist to seek treatment. Remember to explain as clearly as you can what your need is and if you require urgent treatment, explain what impact(s) your dental problem is having i.e., causing difficulties eating.

To find dental practices near you

For urgent dental treatment contact one of the following:

Brighton and Hove - If your own dentist is closed;

  • NHS Dental Helpline. Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm, 0300 123 1663. Call the Helpline for details of dentists in Brighton & Hove accepting NHS patients for routine and urgent treatment.

  • Emergency Dental Service (Brighton & Hove). This is an evening / weekend service for anyone with dental pain. Please phone 03000 242548, Monday to Friday 5:30-10:30pm, or Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays 9am to 5.30pm. This service is delivered by idental care limited.

Outside of Brighton & Hove:

Crawley – 01293 518541

Worthing – 01903 230364

Chichester – 01243 793697

Haywards Heath – 01444 440695


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. You can also make a complaint. For details of how to do this please see the guide below.

Other information

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.

In October 2021, Healthwatch England co-signed an open letter addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for a recovery plan for NHS dentistry. We have supported the British Dental Association in calling on the Chancellor to use the forthcoming Spending Review to provide vital investment in NHS dentistry.  Read the open letter from Sir Robert Francis QC, chair of Healthwatch England, and BDA chair Eddie Crouch.

Tell us about your contact with dental services

We are very keen to hear about how dental services are working for you. Which services have you been in contact with? Did you get help for any dental problems?

Healthwatch Brighton and Hove is aware of the issues that are affecting many people, and we continue to gather and feedback. We have alreadty raised your concerns with NHS England, the Clincial Commissioning Group and local MPs. You can read about our work here.

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

Healthwatch - full guide to dental treatment
What you need to know (short leaflet, October 2021)
Guide to dental home care
NHS guide to seeing a dentist
NHS guide to seeing a dentist - EASYREAD guide

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