About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland provides information on NHS General Dental Service (GDS) treatment and fees annually. This publication provides statistics for 2020/21 with comparisons with previous years.

These statistics are affected by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak. On the 23 March 2020, the nation entered a period of 'lockdown' and dental practices were asked to suspend all dental treatments. A few urgent dental care centres (UDCCs) were made available for patients with acute problems during lockdown. However, dentists at these facilities only offered a limited number of treatments to minimise the risk of coronavirus being spread.

Main points

Dental treatments

For children aged under 18

  • In 2020/21, the number of GDS courses of treatment given to children in Scotland was just over 113,000, a decrease of over 357,000 (75.9%) from 2019/20. This decrease is due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Half (49.5%) of the claimable dental treatments provided to children were for triage activity. This includes initial telephone calling, and provision of a non-aerosol generated procedure.

For adults aged 18 and over

  • In 2020/21 the number of courses of treatment authorised was just over 966,000, a decrease of over 3 million (76.5%) from 2019/20.
  • Half (50.7%) of adult treatments authorised were for triage activity.

Dental fees

  • In 2020/21, £135.5 million of GDS fees were authorised in Scotland, the lowest reported figure. This was a decrease of £163.1 million (54.6%) from 2019/20.
  • When adjusted for inflation, GDS fees increased each year from 2005/06 until 2011/12; then stabilising until 2018/19; before dropping to the lowest figure since 2009/10.


The remobilisation of NHS dental services was undertaken in 4 phases.

  • Phase 1 (from 20 May 2020). Capacity in UDCCs was increased and provision expanded to include patients with acute and essential oral health care needs.
  • Phase 2 (from 22 June 2020). All dental practices reopened for face-to-face consultation with patients requiring urgent dental care treatments that could be provided using non-aerosol generating procedures (AGPs).
  • Phase 3 (from 13 July 2020). Dentists were able to see patients for the full range of routine non-AGP dental care. From 17 August 2020, aerosol associated treatment was permitted for urgent dental care only.
  • Phase 4 (from 1 November 2020). Practices were able to provide the full range of NHS treatments to all patients in need of both urgent and non-urgent care. Dentists were also able to provide domiciliary care.

Consequently, this has had an impact on the number of treatments undertaken and fees paid in 2020/21.


NHS dentists can provide a wide range of treatments to their patients, from a simple examination to complex surgical treatment. The Statement of Dental Remuneration (SDR) lists all the items of service (IOS) (i.e. treatments) which dentists can provide and claim payment for.


Fees data reported in this publication are based on payments authorised by Practitioner Services Division (PSD). Up to February 2020, there was a direct link between activity and payments.

Because of the substantial disruption to service provision, a financial support package was introduced for independent GDS practices. From March 2020, practices received top up payments based on their average monthly fees and patient contributions earned between February 2019 and 2020.

In this report, fees data continues to be based on activity and does not include payments received as part of the financial support package. As a result, the data does not reflect the total amount of money paid to practices between March 2020 and March 2021.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be September 2021.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email .

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

Requesting other formats and reporting issues

If you require publications or documents in other formats, please email phs.otherformats@phs.scot.

To report any issues with a publication, please email phs.generalpublications@phs.scot.

Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 21 March 2024
Was this page helpful?