Do Students Get Free Dental Care in the UK? - true student | true

Frequently Asked Questions About Free Student Healthcare in the UK

Posted 8 Jan 2024
Student puts mascara on in her light up bathroom mirror

Student healthcare probably isn’t the first thing you think of when you move to university. Getting an eye test isn’t the most fun freshers week activity, we’ll admit. As a result, it can mean tasks like signing up for a GP quickly fall down your to-do list.

But it’s important that you’re aware of what free healthcare you’re entitled to as a student. This way, you can be better prepared for if anything goes wrong and you need to seek treatment.

In this blog post, you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions about free student healthcare in the UK, including information about dental care, eye tests, contraception and more.

Do Uni Students Get Free Dental Care?

Not all students are eligible for free dental care and, in most cases, you will have to pay for treatment.

However, you can get free dental treatment if you’re:

  • Under 19 and in full-time education
  • Under 18
  • Pregnant or gave birth in the last 12 months
  • Under 20 and dependent on someone who receives Jobseeker’s Allowance (Source: NHS)

To find out more about free dental care, visit the NHS website: NHS Dental Care

Two bamboo toothbrushes sit in a jar

How Do I Register at a Dental Practice?

To find a dentist near you, simply use the NHS dentist search tool: Find A Dentist

Some practices will have a waiting list. This means they may not be taking on NHS patients and you'll have to shop around.

You can, of course, go private, but this will be very costly. It all depends on how much you’re willing to spend on those pearly whites!

If you need urgent dental care, contact your current dentist or call 111. 

Dentist shows student woman dentist tools

How Much Does Dental Treatment Cost?

There are three bands of dental treatment on the NHS:

Band 1

Cost: £25.80

This is the standard fee which covers your checkup, plus any X-rays and a scale and polish.

Band 2

Cost: £70.70

Band 2 includes everything in Band 1 as well as other treatments like extractions, fillings and root canal treatments.

Band 3

Cost: £306.80

This is for more complex treatments like crowns and dentures.

If you need more treatment from the same or a lower charge band within 2 months, you don’t need to pay anything.

If you need an urgent dentist appointment, you’ll pay the Band 1 cost. (Source: NHS)

Student is served by a woman in a pharmacy

Do University Students Get Free Prescriptions?

If you’re a university student in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or you’re under 18 in England, prescriptions are free.

Otherwise, the standard fee in England is £9.65 per item.

Don’t worry though, as you can get support if you need help paying these costs. For example, if you know you’ll need a repeat prescription for several months, you can get a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC). This lets you pay up front for three (£31.25) or 12 months (£111.60), which can save you money in the long run. (Source: NHS)

Two condoms on a yellow background

How Do I Access Free Contraception?

Thankfully, there are lots of places you can get free contraception as a student in the UK, such as:

  • Sexual health clinic
  • GP
  • Pharmacies
  • Community contraceptive clinic

Your university may even provide free contraception, too. Look out for stalls at freshers week events, for example.

Learn more about where you can get contraception, plus information about the different methods in this guide: NHS Contraception Guide.

Wall of glasses in an opticians

Do Students Get Free Eye Tests?

You’re not automatically guaranteed a free eye test as a student. But you can get one for free if you’re:

  • Under 18 and in full-time education
  • Blind or partially sighted
  • Have a HC2 certificate
  • Receive Jobseeker’s Allowance or income support
  • Have glaucoma or diabetes (Source: NHS)

Otherwise, you’ll have to pay for your eye test, glasses and lenses, although sometimes branches offer free or discounted tests, so keep an eye out (literally!) On average, you can expect to pay around £20-25 for an eye test, and the price of glasses can vary massively. Shop around for your new specs to get the best deal. 

International student sits on floor with a bag of luggage
International student with luggage

What Free Healthcare Are International Students Entitled To?

The rules are different if you’re coming from an EU versus a non-EU country. It also depends on when you arrived in the UK, too.

For EU students who arrived pre-2021, you can access free healthcare as long as you have settled or pre-settled status.

Otherwise, if you’re an EU student who arrived in 2021 or you’re from a non-EU country, you’ll have to pay for a student visa. As well as this, you’ll have to pay an immigration health surcharge - only once this is paid can you access free healthcare like any other UK citizen.

You might be eligible for a full or partial reimbursement on the visa and health surcharge, but of course these must first be paid.

You can also get health insurance to cover private medical treatment, for example, but this comes at an additional cost. (Source: GOV.UK)

Find out everything you need to know about healthcare for international students on the UK government website: Healthcare for Citizens

Student wearing a yellow jumper types on a laptop
Student with laptop

What Is the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)?

There is additional financial support available for some students in the UK with certain medical conditions. You do not have to pay this back.

You can apply for the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) at the same time as student finance if you have a:

  • Mental health condition
  • Disability
  • Learning difficulty

The allowance can help you pay for study-related costs including:

  • Specialist equipment
  • Travel
  • Non-medical helpers eg. a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter

The amount of money you’ll receive depends on how much extra support is needed. (Source: GOV.UK)

Click here to find out more: Disabled Students’ Allowance

Dentist scans student's teeth at the dentist
Student with dentist

How Do I Apply for a HC2 Certificate as a Student?

Struggling and need more financial support to pay for prescriptions and medical bills? You may be eligible for a HC2 certificate, which means the NHS will fully or partially pay for the costs. This could cover:

  • Prescriptions
  • Dental treatment
  • Sight tests, contact lenses and glasses
  • Travel to appointments

You’re eligible if you’re:

  • On certain benefits
  • Pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months
  • Under 19
  • Have certain medical conditions (Source: NHS)

Check to see if you’re entitled to apply for a HC2 certificate here: NHS Website

Final Thoughts

Although you’ll likely have to pay for healthcare like dental treatment, eye tests and prescriptions as a student, there are a lot of exceptions. You can also get support in the form of the DSA or a HC2 certificate.

If you’re unsure, your university may be able to provide advice, or you can always talk to your GP.

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Page last reviewed: 5th January 2024

Posted 8 Jan 2024