If you have been to the dentist for a checkup recently, you may have been told that you need a filling.
You might also be feeling a niggle and suspecting you need a filling, but would like an idea of how much this could set you back before you go to the dentist.
If this is the case, I hope to fully explain:
- The cost of a filling with an NHS dentist.
- The cost of a filling with a private dentist.
- What types of filling are available and differences between them.
To make it easy to compare the various options, I have also included:
- A price comparison of NHS filling costs
- A price comparison of private fillings costs
- Pros and cons of the different types of fillings
How much does a filling cost on the NHS?
NHS dental treatment will cover any treatment that is clinically necessary. This means that for any treatment that is needed to keep your mouth, teeth, and gums healthy and free of pain, you will be charged the appropriate NHS fee.
How much this fee is will depend on where you go to the dentist.
In England and Wales the fees are set according to a band system. A filling will normally come under a Band 2 – £65.20 in England, whereas a Band 2 Dental Charge is £47 in Wales.
In Scotland and Northern Ireland the prices are per item, and you will pay 80% of the fee up to a maximum amount. You will pay for each of the fillings that you need.
There can be a bit more to it than that, and there are various options available depending on your situation, so I go into more detail below.
Later on I also include pricing comparison tables, so you can see the various options side by side.
📣 Editor’s Note: We also have a post comparing all NHS vs Private Treatment Costs.
England and Wales
A routine filling in England and Wales will be covered by a Band 2 course of treatment. A Band 2 is the total price for the whole course of treatment including your checkup and all treatment recommended by your dentist (that comes under a Band 2).
Whether you need one filling or five, you will only pay one total charge.
This is also the same price whether you need a filling in a front tooth or a back tooth and whether it is a metal filling or white filling
It is worth noting that because this is NHS treatment it is only for treatment that is clinically necessary. This means that usually a back tooth will have a metal filling, and you would pay privately if you wanted a white filling at the back, but more on that later.
A Band 2 Dental Charge in 2020 is £65.20 in England, whereas a Band 2 Dental Charge is £47 in Wales.
If you see a dentist for an emergency filling, they may place a temporary or permanent filling (depending on what is the best option at the time), to get you out of pain. The cost of a filling as emergency treatment is a Band 1 Dental Charge. If you see a dentist as an emergency and they do a filling, they will not do a checkup or any other treatment – just the treatment needed to get you out of pain.
The NHS dental charges in Scotland follow a pricing structure that is complex and will vary between patients. This makes it difficult to give exact prices for treatment without a checkup, but in any case you will pay 80% of the dentist’s fee, up to a maximum of £384 per course of treatment.
In Scotland you will be charged per filling completed, up to a maximum of £40.65 per tooth.
The NHS dental charges in Northern Ireland follow a pricing structure that is complex and will vary between patients. This makes it difficult to give exact prices for treatment without a checkup, but in any case you will pay 80% of the dentist’s fee, up to a maximum of £384 per course of treatment.
In Northern Ireland, Health Service Dental Charges are outlined in the table below taken from NI Direct Government Services website. A full list of explanations of the costs of Health Service dental treatment can be found through their Statement of Remuneration, which is updated every year.
In Northern Ireland you will be charged per filling completed, up to a maximum of £38.40 per tooth.
How much does a white filling cost?
A white filling is the term normally used for a tooth coloured filling. Usually this is a composite filling material. Composite filling materials are hard wearing and cannot be seen in the mouth, unlike a traditional metal filling.
Sometimes a different type of filling material, called glass ionomer cement (GIC), may also be used. These are normally tooth coloured. This type of material is used where the mouth cannot be kept dry enough for composite, or as a temporary filling material.
NHS white fillings
White fillings are the filling of choice for a front tooth, both on the NHS and privately.
You may be eligible for a white filling on a back tooth in some cases (which is explained further on in this article).
If you are eligible for a white filling on the NHS, it will cost:
- In England: a Band 2 Dental Charge is £65.20. This includes any other treatment required for that course of treatment.
- In Wales: a Band 2 Dental Charge is £47. This includes any other treatment required for that course of treatment.
- In Scotland: between £15 and £23 per filling, with price cap of £40.65 per tooth.
- In Northern Ireland between £14.72 to £37.39 per filling, with a price cap of £38.40 per tooth.
Private white fillings
You may choose to pay privately for a white filling, especially if it is a back tooth that does not qualify for a white filling on the NHS. Sometimes you may be offered a private white filling because the dentist has a range of different types of white filling material you can “upgrade” to.
Private prices for a white filling can vary greatly between practices. They are often charged per surface, so that a larger filing will take more time.
Expect to pay a minimum of £50 for a small white filling on a front tooth, and from £100 in a tooth further back.
How much does a gold filling cost?
A gold filling is not available on the NHS in most cases.
A gold filling needs to be made by a dental laboratory, and is more precisely called an inlay (or even an onlay if it covers all of the biting surface). A gold inlay wouldn’t be offered on the NHS because they are very expensive to make and there are alternative more affordable materials available for inlays (which will survive just as long). Examples of other materials for inlays are composite (white filling) or porcelain, which may be considered on the NHS.
If your dentist agrees to do an NHS gold inlay as part of a course of treatment, you will be charged for a Band 3 £282.80 in England or £203 in Wales.
In Scotland the charge would be between £63.20 and £118.64, depending on the total number of surfaces covered.
In Northern Ireland the charge would be between £74.89 and £140.29 , depending on the total number of surfaces covered.
However, as stated, gold is not usually offered as a primary option on the NHS as alternative appropriate materials are available.
You may be adamant that you want gold in your tooth, and it is still a good option in some cases. You will need to pay privately for this.
Privately, a gold filling typically costs in the region of £300 – £600 upwards, depending on the size of the filling.
We have included a comparison of costs and options in the [table below – link]
Price comparison tables
NHS Filling Costs
These are the costs you should expect to pay, but they may vary depending on your other treatment needs. You should be told by your dentist exactly how much you will need to pay, before the treatment is started.
|Cost per course of treatment, may include fillings in a number of teeth||Cost per course of treatment, may include fillings in a number of teeth||Cost per tooth||Cost per tooth|
|Amalgam (metal)||Normally only in back teeth||£65.20||£47||£7.96 – £20.40||£7.71 – £19.84|
|Composite Resin||For front teeth and other selected cases||£65.20||£47||£15.44 – £23.96||£15.12 – 38.40|
|Glass ionomer||temporary filling||£23.80||£14.70||£14 – £19.12||£13.26 – £18.13|
|Glass ionomer||permanent filling||£65.20||£47||£14 – £19.12||£13.26 – £18.13|
|Gold||Inlay, not normally available||£282.80||£203||£63.20 – £118.64||£74.89 – £140.29|
Private Filling Costs
The table below shows the average cost of having a filling completed privately. These prices vary depending on a number of factors, including:
- The size of the filling
- The amount of time the filling will take
- Where the practice is located
- Whether the practice is a corporate or independent practice.
You should be told by your dentist exactly how much you will need to pay, before the treatment is started.
|Type||Typical cost (UK)|
|Amalgam (metal)||Charge increases per surface||£50 – £100|
|Small Composite Resin||E.g. in a front tooth||£50 – £100|
|Large Composite Resin||Usually charged per surface||£100 – £250|
|Glass Ionomer||Usually a temporary option||£50 – £100|
|Gold||inlay||£300 – £600|
Pros and Cons of Different Types of Fillings
As we have already discussed, there are a few different types of filling material available. Which one the dentist chooses depends on:
- How strong the filling needs to be (where the hole is on the tooth, which tooth is affected).
- How large the hole is, and how much tooth is left to help keep the filling in place.
- If the tooth can be kept dry during treatment.
- Where the filling is visible or not (whether it is one a front tooth or a back tooth).
- The cost of the material and how much the patient is willing to pay.
Broadly speaking we refer to the following types of fillings as options:
Additional information about costs
Can I get free NHS fillings?
Free NHS fillings are available to you if:
- You come under a special category so your treatment is automatically free.
- You have a dental exemption certificate.
- You are eligible for the Low Income Scheme for help with your NHS costs.
Free NHS treatment
You might be eligible for free dental treatment on the NHS if you come under a special category. This means that certain people will never pay for treatment:
- Under 18 years old (children) OR Under 19 years old and in full-time education.
- Treatment by a hospital dentist whilst you are in a hospital as an in-patient.
- Treatment by the hospital dental services or community dental services.
NHS Dental Charge Exemptions
Where the above does not apply to you, you may still have exemptions from NHS Dental Charges. To be able to receive these you need to be receiving the relevant benefits to be able to claim your NHS Dental Charges Exemption Certificate. The types of exemption certificate are:
- NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificate
- Maternity Exemption Certificate.
- NHS Pension Credit Guarantee Credit Exemption.
NHS Low Income Scheme
Finally, you can also get a free NHS filling if you apply for the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS). The LIS is available to help you pay for your health costs, including help paying dental costs and may cover part or all of your costs, depending on your income.
You can claim a refund for NHS dental charges if you paid for NHS dental treatment and then realised you were entitled to an exemption or help with costs. You must claim a refund within three months of paying for your NHS dental treatment.
Do NHS fillings have a guarantee?
If something goes wrong with your NHS dental treatment within 12 months, it may be replaced for free under the NHS Dental Treatment Guarantee.
This only applies when it is the same tooth being treated, and when you need the same item of treatment replaced. If it is a different problem, for example a different filling has fallen out, then you will be expected to pay.
The re-treatment must be similar to the original treatment. However, as explained by the NHS General Dental Services Contract Regulation, the replacement “does not have to be like-for-like”.
This guarantee also only applies if you return to the same dental practice. If you go to another dental practice, you will be expected to pay.
There are some cases where a filling will not be covered for a free placement, according to the NHS website:
- Within the 12-month period another dentist has carried out any treatment on the same tooth that has been restored.
- Private treatment has been provided to the same tooth since the original restoration was provided.
- The original restoration was intended to be temporary. If this is the case then a permanent replacement within 12 months will need to be paid for.
- The dentist advised you originally that a different type of restoration was more appropriate, but you elected for the treatment provided. In this case the treatment that was actually provided is not covered by the guarantee.
- The repair or restoration is a result of trauma.
Can I have a white filling on the NHS?
Yes, but only in some circumstances.
White fillings are the filling of choice for a front tooth, both on the NHS and privately.
Metal fillings are the preferred NHS material for fillings in back teeth, because of the relative cost (more expensive than a white filling), without any clinical benefit. In other words, a white filling will only be offered over a metal filling if there is a significant benefit.
For back teeth, you will not normally be offered a white filling unless it is clinically necessary (for example if you have a metal allergy).
White fillings will also be provided in all teeth in following the Government’s changes in rules. A white filling may offered on the NHS for the back teeth:
- For treatment of baby teeth or adult teeth in children under the age of 15.
- For the treatment of pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- For the treatment of patients with specific metal allergies.
- When replacing metal fillings in patients with lichenoid reactions to metal fillings.
Can I mix NHS and Private fillings?
You may choose to have an NHS filling or a private filling, depending on the options given to you by your dentist. After a checkup, your dentist will generate a treatment plan and this can include both private and NHS treatment.
There are some things to be aware of:
- You cannot be charged twice for one filling. You should pay EITHER an NHS charge or a private charge, but not both for the same filling.
- A private filling cannot be replaced free of charge on the NHS if it fails (but should be covered by a private guarantee).
- For NHS treatment, you pay once the treatment has been completed. For private treatment, you may be asked to pay in advance.
- NHS treatment is for things that are clinically necessary. If you want a different type of filling because of the way it looks, you will need to pay privately.
Does dental insurance cover fillings?
You may be paying a monthly price for your private dental treatment. This can come under a number of categories, as is explained here.
These payment schemes can be dental plans or dental insurance, and may be something you pay for personally, and you pay a monthly fee for them. In some cases your employer may have signed you up to such a scheme as a benefit for working for them.
The idea of these is to help you spread out the cost of seeing the dentist.
These are for purely private treatment.
For the amount you pay per month you normally have at least your checkups and hygiene appointments included.
More comprehensive plans will include fillings and other restorative work, such as root fillings.
Normally you will be assessed by your dentist, who will set a fee based on the condition of your teeth. You would then set up a monthly payment depending on the fee set by your dentist..
The prices charged at a practice for their monthly schemes will vary, as will the benefits included. However, expect to pay between £10 and £20 per month for the most basic care, which will include checkups twice a year and two hygiene appointments per year.
If you have a lot of existing dental work and are going for a scheme that includes the cost of treatment (normally excluding any lab bills), you could reasonably expect to pay £40+.
It is possible to move between bands if your oral health improves or gets worse.
Dental insurance schemes differ from a payment plan in that you pay a charge set by the insurers the cost for the insurance policy.
If you needed treatment during the policy period, you would pay the dentist for the treat and you will then claim back the cost of this from the insurers.
The insurance policy can cover you for NHS or private treatment.
Different levels of cover will provide routine care such as checkups, whilst more comprehensive cover can reimburse you for thousands of pounds worth of private dental treatment. Often there is a cap of the amount you can claim, as well as when you are able to start claiming.
Most insurance will also provide some sort of cover for if you are diagnosed with oral cancer, including a cash benefit if you have to stay in hospital overnight.
For comparison of different insurance companies, you might wish to look at a comparison site such as Which?.
Shop around for private treatment
So this might not be worth it for the odd filling, but if you want or need a lot of fillings, then it is worth shopping around different practices and asking about their prices.
The difference in the cost of a private filling can be great, depending on the practice you go to.
Some things to consider when you are looking at the cost of a private treatment
- Corporates or chains or dental practices can be cheaper than an independent practice (but not always). With these types of practice the price is normally the same no matter where you are in the UK. Some common chains of practice include myDentist, Bupa Dental Care and Rodericks (although there are others available).
- Independent practices set their own fees, so even in the same town prices can vary greatly. If you are looking for a dentist and it does not have a corporate logo, it may be an independent practice. It is worth looking at different practices in the same town to compare prices.
- Prices can vary depending on where you are located in the UK, with the South of England often being the most expensive. If you commute for work, it might be worth comparing the costs of dental practices between your hometown and where you work.
- Considering whether you want to pay as you go (where you pay a fee per item for treatment completed) or whether you want to join a monthly payment scheme – which I will discuss a bit more later on.
How much does a filling cost?
The cost of a filling depends on whether it is private treatment or NHS treatment, on the material of the filling, as well as the size of the filling.
How much will an NHS filling cost?
The charge depends on whether you are treated in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
Are NHS fillings free?
Normally you will pay for a filling on the NHS, unless you are exempt from dental charges. You can read about that here.
Why are private fillings more expensive?
NHS dental care is subsidised, and the prices are fixed by the government. This means that you pay the dentist less than you would do privately.