Is it worth paying privately for orthodontics when they can have it for “free” under the NHS?
Ten years ago dentists had access to unlimited funding, and could therefore offer treatment to any child whose parent or guardian requested it. They were also paid a reasonably high fee to allow the use of the most up-to-date materials and to dedicate enough time for treatment, and had absolute choice over the treatment they used. It was also unlikely for there to be significant waiting lists as busy practices could contract another assistant to help out with the workload.
However this has all changed, and under current arrangements, orthodontic providers have to bid for a fixed amount of funding, which will only allow treatment of a certain number of patients per year. Treatment is no longer ‘available to all’ and children must be assessed to see if they fall into a sufficiently severe category under the IOTN (Index of Treatment Needs) before they can be offered treatment. Those who do not meet these criteria cannot be offered NHS treatment anywhere.
Recently, orthodontic fees have not only all been set at the same level (for minor and severe cases alike) but, in many cases, the total fees have been driven downwards, as many large so-called ‘super practices’ compete for funding. Furthermore, there are no additional fees for more complex braces, such as functional appliances to help favourable jaw growth, or anchorage devices to reduce the need for extractions. Because of this, waiting lists have become commonplace, sometimes with waiting periods of many months just for an assessment under the NHS and, even if your child does then qualify for treatment it can be years before this starts.
While the availability of conveniently located, prompt and efficient high quality NHS orthodontics in any given area may not be a problem, it is no longer something that can be taken for granted. Likewise, it cannot necessarily be assumed that the treatment offered (either NHS or privately) is either of the highest quality or the most suitable for each case.
If all cases are funded to exactly the same level, you have to ask yourselves whether all orthodontists are really going to consider offering a longer, more complex – and hence more expensive – treatment if there is a quicker and easier choice available. We cannot comment on what treatments are or are not available in practices other than our own. We can, however, set out what we do offer and this, hopefully, will allow you to make an informed choice about what is best for your children.