Five reasons why now is a good time to go private

Five reasons why now is a good time to go private

Practice Plan area sales Manager, Suki Singh, gives five reasons why now is a great time to make the move to private dentistry.

A lot of things in life are about perspective. For example, to some people, ‘My bed’ by Tracey Emin is a masterpiece of confessional art.

Whereas to others it’s just a messy bed surrounded by a lot of litter that needs a good tidy up! It’s the same bed but looked at from different perspectives.

Likewise in NHS dentistry there are different perspectives about the state of the profession, especially in England.

Some view it as a treadmill that doesn’t offer a fair remuneration for their skills and training. They feel under unrelenting pressure and may even be considering leaving the profession altogether.

On the other hand, some dentists feel, usually those in private practice, that there has never been a better time to be a dentist.

They are relishing the benefits digital dentistry can offer them: a better overall view of a patient’s oral health and the ability to produce accurate models without putty, but by using a 3D printer. They are able to spend time with their patients and build a lasting relationship with them.

I happen to be in the camp that thinks that the circumstances the profession finds itself in have never been better for those wanting to leave NHS dentistry and set up in private practice. Here are my reasons for thinking that:

Patients, patients everywhere!

Once a major concern for dentists leaving the NHS, whether they’ll have enough patients is now irrelevant.

The combination of the pandemic, Brexit and the large numbers of dentists leaving the NHS because of their dissatisfaction with their contract, means patients are desperate to be able to see a dentist and are prepared to pay for their treatment and oral healthcare.

The various lockdowns and the need for surgeries to remain fallow after certain treatments mean an enormous backlog of appointments has built up.

Patients are having to wait months, and in some cases years, to be seen by an NHS dentist. This means large numbers of them are seeking private dentists to be able to be seen quicker.

Add to this the shortage of dentists caused by many overseas professionals leaving the UK post-Brexit, and you arrive at the current situation where the country has several ‘dental deserts’: places where there are no NHS dentists to serve the population. So, this means there are thousands of patients looking for a dentist.

Therefore, it is highly unlikely that you will not have enough patients to sustain a private practice.

People are prepared to pay

As mentioned above, people are being told they will have to wait for appointments to see their NHS dentist. This means many of them are seeking treatment from private dentists so that they can cut down their waiting time.

Whether it’s on a pay-as-you-go basis or on a membership plan, many patients who find that their NHS dentist is handing back their contract are biting the bullet and converting to become private patients, despite the current squeeze on household finances.

Selfies and the Zoom boom

The so-called Zoom boom caused by so many of us seeing ourselves on screen daily sparked an increase in demand for cosmetic dentistry.

Tooth whitening, straightening and bonding has been on the up over the last few years and is a trend sustained by Instagram and selfies.

Patients are aware this sort of treatment is not available on the NHS, so they are already in the mindset of paying for dental treatment. They will budget for it or make use of patient finance to achieve the look they want.

So, as a private dentist, there are opportunities to offer treatment plans to patients that will improve the way they look and feel about themselves, and not just repair ailing teeth.

Step off the treadmill

Time and again I have heard from dentists how debilitating working in the NHS can be. Diaries are dictated by the need to achieve UDAs and they have to concentrate on quantity, rather than quality. Many dentists are exhausted and close to complete burn out.

This type of conveyor belt treatment is not why they joined the profession.

A private practice needs to see fewer patients than an NHS one. A lighter appointment book gives dentists the time to be able to get to know their patients and to provide the quality of service they would like them to receive.

Many who made the move away from the NHS tell me that it renewed their love for the profession and that they started enjoying dentistry again. Don’t we all deserve to enjoy working in our chosen profession?

Regain some control of your life and your business

One of the complaints I hear about NHS dentistry is that there is too much bureaucracy.

The quota system dictates how many patients they can see, unless they feel like working for free! If they don’t achieve their UDA target, they risk claw back which could see them losing thousands of pounds, even though there may be legitimate reasons why they didn’t hit their numbers.

Dentists also feel they are unable to make choices about how they run their own businesses. They are told what materials they must use, as well as the treatments they are allowed to perform. Even though they may feel other options may be better for their patient, if the NHS doesn’t sanction it, then they can’t do it.

The way that the contract is structured means dentists are paid for check-ups and treatments and so preventative work is disincentivised, which is something a lot of them find disheartening.

I seldom, if ever, hear these types of complaints from those in private practice. They have the freedom to choose what treatments they offer, the materials they use and where they source those materials. It’s their business and nobody else dictates how they run it.

So, hopefully, I’ve given you some food for thought.

Moving to private practice from the NHS is a big change. However, when you’re considering the future of your practice you may want to heed the words of the actor, James Dean, who said: ‘I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.’

If you are looking to gain more independence from the NHS, why not start the conversation with Practice Plan on 01691 684165, or book your one-to-one NHS to private call today: or visit

Get the most out of your membership by subscribing to Dentistry CPD
  • Access 600+ hours of verified CPD courses
  • Includes all GDC recommended topics
  • Powerful CPD tracking tools included
Register for webinar
Add to calendar