Yes it is Free if:-
• Under the age of 18, 19 if still in full time education
• Pregnant, and for the first 12 months after giving birth
• You visit an NHS dental hospital (except for dentures and bridges)
• On Government Benefits e.g. unemployed or low paid.
Otherwise you have to pay, but the fees are modest and capped.
The fees are capped in three bands:-
• Band 1 course of treatment £19.70 ($24 dollars) twice a year for six monthly check-ups, including advice, scale and polish, preventative care, and emergency care e.g. temporary filling.
• Band 2 course of treatment – £53.90 ($67) covers everything in Band 1 plus fillings, root canal work, and removing teeth.
• Band 3 course of treatment – £233.70 ($292) covers everything in Band 1 & 2 plus crowns, dentures and bridges.
So regardless to what work you have done the maximum you’ll pay for NHS dental treatment in any year is less than $300.
If however you don’t want to pay (and you don’t qualify for free treatment) you can always choose to walk into an NHS dental hospital. Other than dentures and bridges, treatment in an NHS dental hospital is free because that’s where dental students do their training e.g. you become their guinea pig.
Horror stories of NHS dental care in England stems mainly from the 1990s when the Dental practice has a major bust up with the Conservative Government over their contracts; which led to most dental practices leaving the NHS and going Private. Albeit under British law they were still legally obliged to offer Free NHS care for all those entitled to the free care.
However, after 10 years or so NHS practices started popping up again all around Britain, so it’s back to normal; and these days there is no excuse for anyone not to visit their dentist regularly.