Policy actions  1 of 7

Dentistry and oral health

We are committed to improving oral health in Scotland and providing high quality NHS dental services.

Reducing inequalities in our most deprived communities is our priority and establishing good oral health in childhood lays the foundation for a healthy mouth for life.

The following links provide more information: 

Improvement plan

We published our oral health improvement plan (OHIP) in January 2018. This plan provides the overarching framework for the development of NHS dental service provision in Scotland. It sets out a programme of work which builds on achievements in: 

  • child oral health
  • access to NHS dental services
  • workforce growth

The plan also seeks to address challenges around health inequalities and an ageing population, focusing on the following areas:

  • prevention
  • reducing oral health inequalities
  • meeting the needs of an ageing population
  • more services in the high street
  • improving information for patients
  • quality assurance and improvement

NHS dental care at home (domiciliary care) 

We recognise the increasing challenge of an ageing population in Scotland. We want to ensure that everyone, no matter what their age, can have access to dental care in order to maintain good oral health.

We introduced a scheme in April 2019 to ensure people in care homes receive appropriate dental care. We will expand this to include those people being cared for at home over time. Early adopters for the new arrangements will begin providing domiciliary care in assigned care homes in late summer 2019.

The aim of the new arrangements is to ensure people in care homes receive appropriate dental care by encouraging more independent dentists who provide NHS dental services to provide more domiciliary care.

Oral Health Community Challenge Fund (February 2019)

The key to improving oral health in our most disadvantaged communities lies within the communities themselves.  

We launched a £2.5 million Oral Health Community Challenge Fund in February 2019 to help reduce inequalities by supporting communities and families to take positive action to improve oral health. The Fund offered grants of between £7,000 and £30,000 to third sector organisations working in areas of multiple deprivation in Scotland. The funding allocation has now been made and a list of successful projects has been published

Childsmile programme

Childsmile is a Scottish Government-funded programme which is delivered via nursery schools, primary schools, and dental practices. The programme includes free daily supervised toothbrushing, the application of fluoride varnish, and dietary and oral hygiene advice.  

We have made real progress in improving Scotland’s child oral health over the last 10 years as a result of our Childsmile programme, which focuses on prevention, rather than restorative treatment. The results of the National Dental Inspection Programme (October 2018) showed that the proportion of primary 1 children with ‘no obvious decay experience' had increased to 71% in 2018, compared to 58% in 2008.   

We have also extended the Childsmile Programme from August 2018, with additional funding of £327,000, to all nursery and primary 1 and 2 children in the most deprived communities across Scotland.

NHS dental treatment charges

People automatically entitled to free NHS dental treatment in Scotland are:

  • anyone under 26 years old
  • pregnant women and nursing mothers

Others on low incomes may be able to get help. More information is available in the following publications:

You can check if you are entitled to help with NHS dental costs by using this quick checker on the gov.uk website.

Those not entitled to free NHS dental care will need to pay 80% of the cost of NHS dental treatment up to a maximum of £384 per course of treatment.

Amalgam fillings

Scotland has already taken action to reduce the levels of amalgam being used in treatment, with the introduction of new restrictions on 1 July 2018. 

We launched our plan to phase down the use of amalgam or ‘silver’ fillings in Scotland in June 2019

This is part of a UK-wide response to an EU directive which places restrictions on the use of amalgam. This plan will be delivered through the general improvement of oral health across the population, supported within an increasingly preventive model of care.

Dental workforce

We have invested significantly in NHS dentistry in Scotland over the last decade in order to recruit and retain dentists. As a result, the numbers of dentists providing NHS dental services in the high street has increased by 35% over the last 10 years.

To encourage those from lower household income families to undertake a dentistry degree at Aberdeen, Dundee or Glasgow University we provide grants to dental students in Scotland. The Dental Student Support Grant (DSSG) provides help with the cost of their studies. 


Email: ceu@gov.scot

Chief Dental Officer and Dentistry Division
Scottish Government
1 East Rear

St Andrews House
Regent Road

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