Dentists' charges to be studied by OFT

Patient being treated by dentist
Image caption UK dental services are worth billions of pounds every year

Confusion over the prices charged by dentists in the UK is to be studied by the fair trading regulator.

Choice between dental practices, the types of treatments on offer, payment methods and how easy it is to change dentists, will also be put under the microscope.

NHS and private dentistry will be covered in the market study by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

It plans to complete the inquiry by March 2012.

The UK market for dental services was worth £7.2bn in 2010. The OFT said that forecasts suggested this could grow to £8.2bn by 2014.

"Patients appear to be confused about the prices they are being charged and concerns have been raised that they may not be getting sufficient information or adequate choice over the dental treatments they receive," said Sonya Branch, of the OFT.

"We also note that the costs of private dental treatment in England are among the highest in Europe.

"Given the current strains on people's finances, we think it is a good time to examine whether competition is working effectively to drive up the quality of private and NHS dental services and deliver better value for money for consumers."

The OFT does not have the power to change the amounts being charged, it simply investigates whether the market is working properly.

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