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Private practice

There are a small proportion of dental practices in the UK that offer purely private treatment, with no NHS work.

Working in private practice is very different to working in an NHS or mixed practice. You might think that they are both about doing dentistry and they are, but how they let you go about doing dentistry is different.


Dentistry in private practice is between you and the patient and that’s it. The NHS is not there as a third party over your head with stipulations on what you can and can’t do, how you can advise your patients and what and how you can charge for your work.


Advantages of working in the private sector

There are many advantages to working in the private sector as opposed to the NHS, including:


  • Ability to charge for work done rather than banded treatments
  • Can offer a greater range of treatment options
  • Freedom to use own documentation
  • More choice over opening hours
  • Less bureaucracy, for example: no UDA targets to meet, no PCO key targets to meet and record, no NHS claim submissions
  • Potentially higher quality equipment and materials
  • Prestige

The advantages of working in the private sector can be summed up in one word – freedom. As a private dentist you have a much greater degree of control over the profitability of your work, the materials you use, the treatments you offer and how the business is run, so long as you work within the confines of professional conduct and meet Care Quality Commission (CQC) or similar requirements.


Disadvantages of working in the private sector

Despite the greater freedom of working in the private sector, it is important to be aware of the potential downsides:


  • No guaranteed income and more vulnerable to an economic downturn
  • Loss of NHS pension and additional payments such as maternity and sick pay
  • Practice owner may save the best cases for themselves
  • Higher patient expectations
  • Cost of materials, latest equipment or training may be higher
  • Errors may arise as there are no NHS forms and procedures to follow
  • Inability to switch to NHS practice if you don’t have an NHS performer number

Although working in the private sector gives you greater control, it comes at the cost of security in terms of income, sickness and pensions. In addition, private patients will have higher expectations that can be expensive to manage.


Career pathway

Initially most dentists in practice start off working within the NHS. During your FD year, you improve on the skills you learned in dental school and over the years you build on these further. Within your practice you may have the opportunity to carry out some private treatments and attract patients to build a private list alongside your NHS one. Eventually dentists will have enough experience to move away from the NHS to a purely private practice.

Further information

You can find out more about working in private practice in our Career Guide.