Report: The Current State of the Dental Industry

The dental industry continues to be a hot topic of conversation as waiting times and a rising cost of care are fuelled funding limitations - leaving many people unable to register with an NHS dentist at all.

Written by
Will Harvey
Published on
June 20, 2024

The dental industry continues to be a hot topic of conversation as waiting times and a rising cost of care are fuelled funding limitations - leaving many people unable to register with an NHS dentist at all. 

There may be over 40,000 registered dentists in the UK, yet waiting times for patients have reached new highs with it being reported that 1 in 10 Brits are resorting to carrying out their own dental work due to a lack of available appointments.

With the overwhelming pressures on the NHS, the government has set in motion the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, setting clear goals to increase the number of training places for dentists, hygienists and dental therapists to alleviate the pressure currently on the shoulders of those within the profession. 

However, due to the current conditions, many dentists are considering transitioning to private practice and seeking their own dental rooms to rent, with patients increasingly open to exploring these alternative options for care.

According to Adarsh Thanki, dental director at UNTIL, “NHS dental services frequently grapple with funding limitations and resource deficiencies, which can compromise the quality and accessibility of care. The outdated NHS dental contract, implemented in 2006, prioritises government targets over patient needs, effectively capping the number of NHS treatments dentists can perform annually. 

“Termed 'unfit for purpose' by the Health Select Committee fourteen years ago, the system covers care for just over half the population of the UK. Dentists may believe they can deliver superior care in a private practice environment with greater resources at their disposal.”

Out of all cities in the UK, it has been revealed that Bristol has the lowest number of NHS dental practices currently taking on new patients, with only seven listed on the NHS website as open to registrations. As the 11th biggest city in the country, this is an issue that will affect many people and may mean that they have to travel further afield for treatment, or need to look into going private.     

To gather the data, we looked at information available on the NHS website, analysing the fifty dental practices listed for each city in the UK to find out which city has the highest and lowest acceptance rate, and who they are most likely to accept. 

Cities hardest hit by dentist availability

With Bristol coming out on top of the city's hardest hit, it’s no surprise that earlier this year it was reported that hundreds of Bristol residents queued outside a newly opened practice hoping to secure an NHS appointment with many having gone months without seeing a dentist.

Norwich came second with only eight practices currently accepting new patients, followed by Cheltenham and Swindon, which both currently have eight practices listed as accepting registrations on the NHS website. As well as low acceptance rates, costs for treatment have also gone up across the country. From April this year, NHS dental charges in England increased by 4%, increasing a standard check-up appointment from £25.80 to £26.80.

Highest Acceptance Rates

Birmingham has been revealed to have the highest number of practices accepting new patients, with 68% currently taking on patients seeking care. Dudley and Bradford have both been revealed to have an acceptance rate of 62%, followed by Newcastle upon Tyne with 60% of practices currently accepting new patients. 

What does this mean for dentists?

It’s no secret that dentists working for the NHS  face overwhelming demands and as they frequently grapple with funding limitations and resource deficiencies, the quality and accessibility of care can become compromised, as demonstrated by the data.

Rather than working for the NHS, dentists may decide to work independently,  looking for dental treatment rooms to rent to enable the feeling of full control and autonomy.

Dr Thanki adds: “Dentists within private practices enjoy more freedom over their schedules, treatment plans, and business decisions compared to those working in NHS practices. This independence is attractive to dentists seeking greater control over their professional lives.

“This can also help establish an individual brand and community. Establishing a private practice empowers dentists to pursue entrepreneurial endeavours and innovate in service offerings, marketing strategies, and practice management techniques, which can be gratifying and improve job satisfaction in the future.

The state of the dentistry industry is at a critical juncture and as it stands there needs to be an emphasis on the mounting costs, waiting times and dentist’s wellbeing. As dentists navigate these complex dynamics, the move towards private practice may not only alleviate immediate pressures but also pave the way for innovative solutions and a more sustainable future for the industry as a whole.


UNTIL analysed the 50 listed dentists on the NHS website for each UK city, looking at current acceptance rates to find out which dentists are the least and most open to accepting new patients. Those that have not provided information on availability were recorded as not currently accepting new patients. 

Data correct as of May 2024.