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Dentist: Entry requirements

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It's essential to have an approved degree in dentistry (BDS or BChD) to practise as a dentist.

Entry to the course usually requires high grades at A-level/Highers in chemistry, biology and physics or mathematics.

The course combines academic education with theoretical and practical training in all aspects of dental practice. Courses including a pre-dental/foundation year exist for candidates without science-based A-levels or equivalents. This course normally lasts for 30 weeks and immediately precedes entry to the undergraduate degree course.

It is not possible to become a dentist with an HND only.

Graduate entry to dental school is possible. A 2:1 in a science-based first degree is usually preferred. Graduate entry courses usually last for five years, but accelerated four-year courses are available for candidates with a 2:1 or better in a degree with a large element of biology or chemistry.

All dental schools in the UK are regulated by the General Dental Council (GDC) . A list of dentistry courses is available from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) .

Even though the number of places at dental schools has increased in recent years, competition is still fierce. Some universities require candidates to sit the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT)  or the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT)  as well as having the usual academic requirements.

Pre-entry experience of dentistry is not absolutely essential, but a few weeks of related work experience and work shadowing are looked for as evidence of your motivation.

It is usually essential for candidates to demonstrate potential in the following skills and attributes, which will be assessed at admissions interviews:

  • strong academic ability;
  • self-discipline;
  • commitment to completing this long and demanding degree course;
  • manual dexterity and technical dental skills, plus the ability to maintain intense concentration for prolonged periods; 
  • the ability to build relationships with patients and colleagues;
  • high level communication and interpersonal skills, for interaction with patients of all ages and backgrounds;
  • an interest in the welfare of others and a sympathetic manner;
  • good administrative and managerial abilities; 
  • information technology skills, due to the increasing use of computers for keeping records and accounts, and for digital imaging of radiographs and intra-oral photography.

It is also important that you have good eyesight.

Training is lengthy and expensive. Lack of financial support can be a problem if you have exhausted your funding entitlements at undergraduate level. Contact course providers for further information on funding and fees. Here are some funding options:

Advice on finance is available to student members of the British Dental Association (BDA). It can be beneficial for dental students to become members of the BDA and over 70% do so. Alongside providing a student newsletter, blog and magazine, free e-books, hefty discounts on books and access to networking events, members are eligible for trade union support and representation. See British Dental Association (BDA) - Students .

For more information, see work experience and internships and search postgraduate courses.


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Written by AGCAS editors
January 2014

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