How to Become A Dentist in the UK

How to Become A Dentist in the UK
Dream of becoming a dentist in the UK? Read our in-depth guide to find out everything you need to know about how to become a dentist in the UK.

What Are Typical Responsibilities of a Dentist?

Dentists are highly-qualified medical professionals who provide treatment for the mouth, teeth and gums. Some typical responsibilities of dentists include:
  • diagnosing and treating oral diseases
  • operating technical equipment such as X-ray machines
  • cleaning teeth
  • performing surgeries
  • correcting dental irregularities
  • performing cosmetic procedures that improve the appearance of the teeth
  • protecting teeth and gums from decay
  • educating patients on oral health and working with them to improve their dental care regimens

What Skills are Required to be a Dentist?

Do you think that a career in dentistry would be a good fit for you? If so, take a moment to ask yourself if you have the below skills:
  • Excellent hand-eye coordination
  • Able to communicate well with everyone from toddlers to the elderly
  • A calm, confident, and reassuring manner when dealing with nervous patients
  • High levels of manual dexterity to carry out complex surgical and dental procedures
  • A keen interest in learning and upskilling
  • Leadership skills
  • The ability to work well within a team
  • An aptitude for business management
Female dentist in a white coat and gloves 

What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Dentist in the UK?

To work as a dentist in the UK, you will need a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) or Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BChd) degree that has been approved by the General Dental Council (GDC). You will also need to have completed foundation training.  

What are the Entry Requirements for Dental School in the UK?

Places in medical school are in high demand, so it is important to start preparing early if you want to pursue a career in dentistry. Depending on your qualifications, there are two routes you can choose from – undergraduate entry and graduate entry.

Undergraduate Entry

Specific entry requirements for undergraduate dental programmes vary by university. However generally speaking, you will need three A levels, usually at grades ranging from AAA to ABB, including chemistry and biology. Alternatively, some dental schools in the UK offer one-year pre-dental courses for students who did not meet the academic entry criteria to apply directly. Depending on the university, you will also need to pass either the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT). Candidates are also required to provide a personal statement and attend an interview.  

Graduate Entry

Candidates who already possess a 2.1 degree in a science or biomedical subject may be eligible for Graduate Entry. This allows the student to fast-track their degree by commencing studies in the second year of the course. This is an ideal pathway for medical professionals who wish to make a transition or move up the career ladder.  

Studying Dentistry Abroad

With intense competition for places at dental schools in the UK, more and more students are now choosing to study dentistry abroad. Entry into universities in Europe tends to be less competitive and comes with a much lighter price tag. What’s more, studying abroad gives you a wonderful experience that will stand to you for the rest of your life.   Those who have received your dental qualification overseas must register with the General Dental Council (GDC) before they can practice in the UK. Those who have trained in the European Economic Area (i.e. countries within the European Union and most countries of the European Free Trade Association) can work in the UK. Dentists who received their qualifications from a country outside the EEC region will need to pass the Overseas Registration Exam (ORE)  

How Many Years Does It Take to Become a Dentist?

It takes about six years to become a fully qualified dentist in the UK. However, this time frame may vary depending on whether or not you choose to pursue a specialty. You will first need to complete a five-year undergraduate degree (this is cut to four years for those on the Graduate Entry pathway). Upon graduation, you will need to undertake one year of Dental Foundation Training. In order to become a practising dentist, you will also need to register with the General Dental Council. Some students choose to continue their studies by pursuing specialist studies which are a minimum of three years in length.

What Are the Different Types of Dentists?

General Dental Practitioners

Once qualified, many dentists choose to become general dental practitioners (or GDPs for short) in their local community. As a GDP, you can choose to primarily practice publicly with the NHS or privately. If you decide to go private, you will still have to conduct some work with the NHS.

Hospital Dentists

Another option is to go into hospital dentistry. Roles in this area are typically consultant-level as they cover the following highly-specialised fields:
  • oral and maxillofacial surgery
  • oral surgery
  • orthodontics
  • paediatric dentistry
  • restorative dentistry
As treatment options tend to be quite complex, hospital dentists typically see fewer patients than general dental practitioners.

Community Dental Care

Dentists who specialise in the provision of community dental care treat patients who may otherwise have difficulty accessing a general dental practitioner. Some examples of patients you may work with include children, people with special needs, and the elderly. As a community dentist, you will be more mobile as you will provide treatments in various locations such as a patient’s own home, schools, nursing homes, community clinics and mobile clinics. Picture of a dentist’s office 

What are the Dental Specialties?

In the UK, dentists are not required to study a specialty. However, those who do decide to specialise can take their pick from one of the thirteen recognised fields of study. The length of the specialty training will depend on the complexity of your chosen field.
Specialty Description
Dental & Maxillofacial Radiology Experts in using medical imaging technology (e.g. x-rays) on the head, neck, jaws and teeth to diagnose oral disease.
Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology A lab-based specialty focusing on the diagnosis and assessment of diseases of the mouth through microscopic examination of diseased tissues.
Dental Public Health Focuses on improving the oral health of communities through research and educational campaigns.
Endodontics Involves the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries relating to the tooth root, dental pulp, and surrounding tissue. They specialise in the provision of root canals.
Restorative Dentistry Uses prosthodontics, periodontics and endodontics to repair and restore individuals’ oral health.
Oral Medicine Mange patients suffering from chronic recurrent disorders of the mouth, salivary glands and jaws.
Oral Microbiology   Lab-based specialists who work to diagnose and assess facial and dental infection.
Oral Surgery They manage the treatment of patients who require surgical intervention on the mouth, teeth or jaws.
Orthodontics Works to prevent and correct irregularities of the teeth, bite and jaw. They are experts at fitting braces and retainers.
Paediatric Dentistry Provide dental care to children and adolescents.
Periodontics Specialises in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases and disorders of the gums.
Prosthodontics The restoration and replacement of missing teeth and the associated soft and hard tissues by fitting implants and prostheses (such as crowns, bridges, dentures).
Special Care Dentistry The delivery of oral care to those who need special care such as people with a physical, intellectual, mental, emotional or social impairment or disability.  

Want to study dentistry in Europe? See our full list of universities here!

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