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Q          Should the dentist offer me an estimate?


A          Your should give you a written estimate if you ask. 


If your dentist does not tell you the cost of private treatment until the end of the treatment, and you feel that it is too expensive, you can query the cost.  The law says that if you and the dentist have not agreed the cost of treatment beforehand, you have to pay a reasonable fee for the treatment provided.  However, to avoid any dispute over what is a reasonable fee it is a good idea to get a written estimate from your dentist before starting any course of treatment.  This should give details of the treatment recommended and the cost of the treatment.  This will help avoid any misunderstandings.

Q          Can I ask for a second opinion?


A          Before starting any treatment make sure that you understand the treatment the dentist has recommended.  The dentist should explain to you the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed treatment and any alternatives there are.  With this information you are better placed to make a decision about whether to have the treatment.


If you are still unsure about any treatment being recommended you may want to get a second opinion before starting treatment.  If the second opinion is different from that of your dentist, remember that dentists have the right to disagree on what the best treatment for a patient is.

Q          What treatment am I entitled to?


A          Your dentist has a duty to give you any treatment needed to make your mouth disease free.  They will also be able to provide most cosmetic treatments.  Some of these may be more a matter of preference than necessity, so you do not have a right to these treatments.  Your dentist must agree that the treatment you want will be in your best interests.


If your dentist cannot provide you with the treatment recommended, for example, orthodontic treatment or general anaesthetic, you are entitled to be referred to another practice or hospital for this treatment.


A few private dentists offer guarantees.  But if any treatment is of unsatisfactory quality you are entitled by law to either a refund or the cost of replacement treatment.


Q          Can I refuse treatment?


A          You can refuse any treatment you do not want to have. Your dentist must have your permission before they carry it out.  However, if you refuse treatment, which the dentist considers that you need, they may refuse to continue treating you

Q          Can I see my records?


A          The Access to Health Records Act 1990 allows you to inspect your records and x-rays.  It also entitles you to copies of your records and x-rays, but you have to pay for these.  If you have any problems in understanding what the records mean the dentist must explain them to you. This will be especially so with dental records, as the dentist will use symbols and abbreviations to record what treatment has been done. The dentist must allow you to see your records or provide you with copies within 40 days.

Q          What happens to my records if I change my dentist?


A          Your records belong to your dentist, and are not passed on to your new dentist.  Your new dentist can ask your previous dentist for a report on your dental treatment or you can ask for copies of your records to be sent to your new dentist. However, most dentists simply make their own records


There is no legal requirement as to the minimum period for which dental records have to be kept privately.

Q          When do I pay for my treatment?


A          Some practices will allow you to pay at the end of a course of treatment, and others will ask you to pay for all treatment at the start. It is quite common to be asked to pay for the treatment done at each appointment. To save any embarrassment you should ask your dentist what the arrangements are for payment.

Q          Can my dentist refuse to see me?


A          If you are a member of a subscription scheme, the rules of the scheme will usually mean that the dentist has to give you a fixed period of notice to end the scheme.  The dentist must provide all necessary treatment until the scheme ends.


Private dentists should finish your present course of treatment before refusing to see you again.


Your dentist can refuse to see you if you have not paid for your treatment in line with the practice’s policy.


Q          What if I have an emergency?


A          Outside normal working hours your dentist will either see you personally or make arrangements for another dentist to see you. Outside working hours an answer message should explain how you can receive emergency treatment.

Q          Should the dentist wear gloves?


A          A dentist must take all reasonable precautions to protect patients and staff from transmittable disease.  Almost all dentists nowadays wear gloves, as this protects both the dentist and the patient.  Although it is strongly recommended that dentists do wear gloves it is not a legal duty.

Q          Can the dentist charge me if I miss an appointment?


A          Many practices will charge you if you miss an appointment or cancel one at short notice.  However, they must tell you beforehand that they do this.  This is often done by a warning on the appointment card.

Q          What happens if I want to change my dentist during treatment?


A          If you are not satisfied with the treatment that you are receiving from your dentist, or you feel uncomfortable about continuing treatment for any other reason, you are entitled to stop the treatment.



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