Dental health: migrant health guide

Advice and guidance on the health needs of migrant patients for healthcare practitioners

Main messages

Ask new migrant patients about their:

  • previous history of dental examinations or treatment
  • current dental or oral symptoms

Provide new migrant patients with information about:

The Department of Health has produced further guidance on overseas visitors’ hospital charging regulations. Immediate necessary dental treatment is exempt from charge under The National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations (2011).

Children are entitled to free dental treatment until the age of 18 (or 19 if in full-time education). Women are entitled to free dental checks during pregnancy, and for the first year after their baby is born.


Oral health is an important part of health as it influences the general wellbeing and quality of life of people by allowing them to eat, speak, and socialise without active disease. Poor oral health affects both individuals and those close to them. Dental decay is the most common oral disease and is largely preventable. As well as treatment, NHS dentistry also provides preventive advice and interventions. For more information about NHS dental services, how to find a dentist and charges, go to NHS Choices

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that globally:

  • 60 to 90% of school children have dental cavities
  • 15 to 20% of middle-aged adults have severe periodontal (gum) disease, which may result in tooth loss

See the prevalence of caries in children by country on the Malmö University oral health database. Malmö University is a collaborating centre in WHO’s oral health programme.

In the UK, oral health has improved dramatically since the 1960s. However, poor oral health is still closely linked to factors which may apply to certain migrant groups, namely:

  • economic deprivation
  • social exclusion
  • cultural differences

There is evidence that oral health can affect blood sugar control in diabetes. It is also associated with chronic obstructive airways disease, pneumonia and with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease).

The availability of dental services varies enormously between and within countries globally, and it is possible that prior to their arrival in the UK some migrants may have never received any:

  • dental examinations or treatment
  • advice on oral hygiene


The NHS dental services in England leaflet has information about how NHS dental services in England work, including how to find an NHS dentist, what treatment you can expect and how much it will cost.

The Oral Health Foundation provides information for patients on a range of dental health topics.

Find out who is entitled to free dental treatment in England.

Find out about help with dental costs.

Find an NHS dentist.

Published 31 July 2014
Last updated 7 July 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated and made editorial changes to meet GOV.UK style.
  2. First published.