Tracking happiness levels in NHS dentistry

Our latest survey asked dentists how happy they feel about various aspects of their working life. This is the first time we've focused on happiness, having monitored the profession's confidence in the future of NHS dentistry since 2014. We also, for the first time, surveyed both private and NHS dentists, enabling a comparison between the two.

Over 400 NHS and private dentists took part, resoundingly stating how unhappy they are or have been when working in the NHS.

They were also asked how they feel about other topics, including:

All respondents rated how happy they feel on seven areas of working life:

  • patient care
  • remuneration
  • working hours 
  • and work/life balance

What was asked

A compelling voice

  • managing patient expectations
  • job satisfaction
  • stress levels

  • adhering to GDC standards
  • the risk of complaints/litigation
  • NHS dentistry as a core service.

Responses from Private Dentists

NHS dentists dramatically more unhappy than private

…are able to carry out your work without feeling overly stressed?

Q: When thinking about working within the NHS, how happy are you that you can you provide the level of care that you want to your patients?

Compared to 91% of NHS dentists who feel unhappy with the level of remuneration they receive for the work they do.

Responses from Private Dentists


The results show a divided dental profession, with those dentists working in the NHS being significantly unhappier than their counterparts operating in private care.

Q:  Compared to when you were working in the NHS, how happy are you that you can provide the level of care that you want to your patients?

Compared to 89% of NHS dentists who feel unhappy with the level of stress to carry out the work they do. 

Q:  Do you think it’s harder to adhere to GDC standards in the NHS compared to private dentistry?

Responses from Private Dentists

…are fairly remunerated for the work you do?

Responses from NHS Dentists

Responses from NHS Dentists

Q:  Compared to when you were working in the NHS, how happy are you that you….

'The latest NHS Confidence Monitor survey findings clearly indicate that colleagues in private practice consider themselves to be less stressed, have a better work/life balance and, amongst other qualities, better able to meet the needs and expectations of patients than colleagues in NHS practice. Regrettably, many colleagues in both NHS and private practice are anxious, if not very- or extremely anxious about the risk of complaints/litigation and would not recommend dentistry as a profession to a friend/family member. Such attitudes are sad, especially at a time when patient engagement and satisfaction would appear to be improving and dentistry may begin to develop an important role in holistic healthcare provision.'

Tony Kilcoyne 

We’ve shared the results with some of the ground-level dentists and key players within

the profession to gain their thoughts on the results of the latest survey.

'These results are shocking but sadly not all that surprising. Private dentists simply have the time and resources to provide patient-centred care as it should be; this leads to both professional and life happiness. 81% of NHS dentists admit they simply don't have this and are unhappy and overly stressed in their job!

One now wonders if, as part of informed consent, we should show this survey to new dentists thinking of working in the NHS, so they are aware of the significant risks of widespread unhappiness and being overly stressed by NHS dental systems?'

Professional opinion

Professor Nairn Wilson

Former President of the General Dental Council and British Dental Association

Dentist and member of the BDA’s Principal Executive Committee

Eddie Crouch, Paul Worskett, Simon Thackeray, Petros Mylonas, Jasmine Lobo, David Houston and Dhru Shah came together to discuss the latest results from the 

NHS Confidence Monitor. 

Well-known faces joined by representatives of the new generation of dentists on this year's panel generated a lively and interesting debate about what the future of dentistry might look like in light of these results.

NHS Insights Panel

Grab your copy of the most recent results.

Download any or all of the adjacent PDFs to see the results from our past surveys, which asked professionals about their confidence in the future of NHS dentistry.

View the previous survey results

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