Dental services


These standards set out what you can expect from the following dental services:

  • any private dental service (including private treatments provided alongside NHS treatment in ‘mixed’ practices); and
  • any primary care NHS dental services (including those provided by community dentists).

Primary care’ refers to the local dental services available directly to patients. Sometimes the care may be provided in your own home.

Secondary care’ refers to hospital or specialist care, where you might be referred from primary care. The standards apply to only private secondary care dental services, not NHS secondary care dental services.

The standards focus on the people who use the services and what they can expect as a result of using them. The standards are addressed to ‘you’ as the user of the service. This approach recognises the individuality of everyone using the service.

General information about dentistry and advice on how to look after your own oral health is provided at Annex A. Further information about the different types of dental services is provided at Annex B.

These National Standards for Dental Services were developed jointly by the National Care Standards Committee, on behalf of Scottish Ministers, and by NHS Quality Improvement Scotland (NHS QIS). This document is being published by Scottish Ministers as National Care Standards under section 5(1) of the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001.


The systems for setting and monitoring standards are different for private and NHS services. However, most dentists in Scotland offer NHS dental care along with varying amounts of private dentistry. The number of wholly private practices and wholly NHS practices in Scotland is small. It is for this reason that a common set of standards has been developed.

The consultation for the standards was carried out jointly by NHS QIS and the Scottish Executive, with NHS QIS focusing on professionals and service providers and the Executive focusing on service users. The consultation involved:

  • issuing the draft standards document to all dentists and dental practices, relevant professional organisations and groups representing service users;
  • organising regional open meetings for dentists, with small group discussions; and
  • organising a series of focus groups for service users.

The common standards for NHS and private dental services brought together the previous work and the different principles and approaches applied by each body to its work. Further background on the organisations involved in the development of the standards is provided at Annex C.

How the standards will be used

The purpose of the standards is to make sure that you receive high quality care and treatment from your dental service. You can use the standards to help decide which dental service to choose. They also set out the quality of service that you can expect. You can use them when discussing the service, raising concerns, or making a complaint if you are not happy with the service, or if things go wrong.

The standards set out what is expected of the people who provide dental services and will be used to assess the performance of dental services in Scotland. The standards do not deal with issues of availability of NHS dental care in Scotland. Each NHS Board is responsible for providing NHS dental services in its own area.

Monitoring the standards

NHS QIS and the Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care (the Care Commission) are working together to develop the best way of assessing and monitoring the standards, to meet the needs of all the main stakeholders. By building on and adapting the existing monitoring systems and best practice guidelines, we want to develop a single system of monitoring for all dental services. Stakeholders will be represented in the work to develop this monitoring system. Information on how dental services are currently monitored is provided at Annex D.

Useful Questions

Dental services can answer your questions about treatments and costs when you are making enquiries and also during a consultation. However, it can be difficult to know what to ask. The questions below relate to all aspects of a dental service. You may want to use some of them to help you to make an informed decision.

The clinicians

  • Who will I have a consultation with?
  • Who will carry out the dental treatment?
  • What are their qualifications and experience?

The cost

  • What will the consultation cost and what does this cover?
  • What other costs might be involved in the consultation (for example, for investigations)?
  • What will the treatment cost?
  • Will the treatment be provided under the NHS, privately, or a combination of both?
  • What happens if I change my mind and decide not to complete the treatment? Do I still need to pay the full cost for the treatment? If so, how will this be worked out?
  • What are the arrangements for payment?
  • Will I have to pay for broken appointments? If so, what are the charges?
  • If I have to cancel, what notice do I need to give to avoid any broken appointment charge?

The consultation, investigations and dental treatment

  • How quickly will I get an appointment?
  • How much time is allocated for each appointment?
  • How quickly will any investigation or treatment be carried out?
  • How long will any investigation or treatment take?
  • What do you do to help with pain or anxiety about treatment?
  • How will you address any cultural needs I may have?
  • Will I be without teeth for any time during the treatment?
  • Will treatment affect my eating or speech?
  • What information is available about this treatment?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of my treatment or investigations?
  • Are there any other treatment options available to me to achieve the results I want?
  • How successful are these types of treatment over the long term?
  • If I want, can I bring someone with me to appointments?
  • Is all the equipment used in my treatment sterilised or used only for me?
  • What are the out-of-hours arrangements?

After the consultation, investigations or treatment

  • Will I need any pain relief after treatment?
  • Do I need to take any special care of my mouth just after treatment?
  • How do I contact the dental service if I think something has gone wrong with my treatment?
  • How can I help prevent further dental problems?
  • What should I do if I am unhappy with any aspects of the consultation, investigation or treatment?
  • Can I move from one dental service to another if I want to?

The record of the consultation, investigation and treatment

  • What kind of record will you keep of my consultation, investigations or treatment?
  • Will my records be shown to anyone else for any reason?
  • Will I be able to get copies of my records and results if I want them?
  • If I want to see my records, what are the arrangements for this?

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