The Difference Between Private & NHS Orthodontic Treatment

It can be quite confusing to figure out exactly what the difference is between having orthodontic treatment carried out on the NHS and going with a private clinic such as here at Queen’s Gate Orthodontics in London.

For many, the assumption is that private treatment is a lot more expensive, however this isn’t necessarily the case, and the treatment and service that you receive are usually a lot better, and doesn’t have to work within as many restrictions.

While there are pros and cons for both options, your own dental condition and needs will largely influence which is right for you.

We’ve taken a look at both options so you can weigh up treatment option suits you best.

NHS Orthodontic Treatment


  • The main difference between private and NHS dental treatment is that you cannot receive cosmetic treatment on the NHS. Many adults are now considering orthodontic treatment to give them a better smile, but if your treatment is purely cosmetic, you’ll have to go private. This restriction also means that NHS dentists don’t necessarily use equipment and treatments that give the most aesthetic result possible, as their job is to purely fix the issue. At private clinics, we work to achieve the best possible functional AND cosmetic result.
  • Private clinics can open up at any time, so if you’re busy at work during the week, you can perhaps book a consultation in the evening or weekend.
  • Private clinics can also use any equipment and materials, as they have no funding restrictions. This means they can provide you with the very best treatment, using more expensive technology.
  • You usually get much longer appointments at private clinics. This means that you aren’t rushed in and out and can receive much more in-depth treatment. Work is carried out at a much more relaxed pace, and you have more time to receive tailored advice from your dentist.
  • Some treatments such as dental implants and teeth whitening are only available in private clinics and they aren’t deemed clinically necessary (except in special cases such as if a tooth has gone black if a nerve has died).
  • You can request a specialist depending on your needs at a private clinic. For example, if you required a particularly difficult extraction.
  • People of any age can receive private orthodontic treatment, whereas with the NHS you have to be under the age of 18.
  • Private clinics will always fully discuss your treatment with you and outline all the costs in writing to you before you have to commit to anything.
  • Private treatment is usually more expensive than on the NHS, but it may not be as much as you’re expecting. Check out our ‘Fees’ page for more of an idea.


  • The primary aim of the NHS is to ensure that your teeth are healthy and free from pain, and does not focus too much on how they look as long as they are healthy.
  • While you’ll receive just as much care and attention if you have orthodontic treatment carried out on the NHS, unfortunately they are required to work under some restrictions.
  • NHS dental treatment has to be functional, meaning it has to be clinically necessary and not just being carried out for cosmetic purposes to make your teeth more attractive. There are also certain preventative treatments which can’t be carried out.
  • The government imposes limits on how much NHS work a clinic can carry out. Once they hit this limit they have to until the next financial year to offer any more.
  • NHS treatment is generally cheaper, but the downside of this is that it means that less expensive materials and equipment have to be used to keep that cost down. They are also limited in what types of braces they can offer you.
  • Because NHS treatment has to be functional, no real attention is paid to the aesthetic results of your treatment. For example, if you have stains on your gums/teeth, the NHS will probably leave these alone as long as the functional issue is sorted and they are considered healthy.
  • Getting an appointment that suits you can be tricky with the NHS, and it’s likely that you’ll have to take time out of school/work.
  • Many specialists also choose to work outside of the NHS, and you won’t have access to their treatments.
  • Hygienists are not funded by the NHS.
  • You may be placed on a waiting list for orthodontic treatment under the NHS.
  • For check ups and cleans the NHS have to follow government guidelines on how often they can call you in.

While the cost of private orthodontics might put some people off, the level of care and the more sophisticated techniques and equipment are a real positive.

If you’re interested in receiving orthodontic treatment as an adult, for purely cosmetic reasons, then going private is the only way to go.

If your treatment is quite straightforward and not so complex, you may be better going with the NHS, but bear in mind that they do have to work within certain restrictions.

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