As a dentist you'll need to have excellent communication skills to offer a professional service to patients
Dentists prevent and treat problems affecting the mouth and teeth, including dental and oral disease. They also treat injuries and correct dental issues.
The most common role in dentistry is as a general dental practitioner (GDP). As a GDP you would work as a self-employed contractor providing dental care to the general public. You might provide services under the NHS, privately or both.
You would typically lead a team of dental nurses, hygienists, therapists and technicians, and would treat a range of patients, from children to the elderly.
You may choose to specialise in a different area of dentistry, such as:
As a dentist, your work will include:
Some practices employ practice managers so that dentists can concentrate on clinical work.
Other salaried posts exist in the armed forces and in corporate practices.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
If you work as a GDP you will be self-employed and can arrange your own working hours, which may include weekend or evening sessions to suit patients. Career breaks and part-time work opportunities are available.
Work within hospitals tends to be on short-term contracts and involves more irregular hours, with on-call responsibilities. Self-employment and freelance work in hospital dentistry are only possible for consultants.
You must have an approved degree in dentistry to practise as a dentist and courses take at least five years to complete. You'll typically need high grades at A-level/Highers in chemistry, biology and physics or mathematics. Some dental schools offer a one-year pre-dental course for those who don't have the required A-levels or equivalent.
If you've already completed a degree, achieved at least a 2:1 and the course had a large element of biology or chemistry, you may be able to do an accelerated four-year dental course.
All dental schools in the UK are regulated by the General Dental Council (GDC) and a list of available courses can be found at GDC Dentistry Programmes. Competition for dental schools is fierce and some may require you to sit the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT). Gather tips on preparing for the UKCAT.
A means-tested bursary may be available from the NHS during the final years of your course. Find out more at NHS Student Bursaries.
Once you've successfully completed your undergraduate degree you'll need to register with the GDC in order to practise as a qualified dentist.
You will need to show:
It is also important that you have good eyesight.
It's not essential to have pre-entry dentistry experience, but a few weeks of related work experience and work shadowing will indicate your motivation for the work.
It's also a good idea to become a student member of the British Dental Association (BDA). You'll receive access to a student magazine, free e-books, hefty discounts on books and access to networking events. Find out more at the British Dental Association (BDA) - Students.
There are a number of ways you can be employed as a dentist:
Corporate practices and regional dental access centres also employ dentists and are becoming more common.
Universities with dental schools and teaching hospitals offer the option of combining academic teaching with research to pursue special interests in depth.
Look for job vacancies at:
After you've completed your dentistry degree, and before being able to practice as a dentist, you must register with the General Dental Council (GDC). To maintain registration throughout your career, you'll need to follow a professional code of ethics and complete continuing professional development (CPD).
Once you're registered with the GDC, you can begin your dental foundation training. This is a period of work-based training that lasts for one year and must be completed by all dentists. You will be based in an approved dental practice with an experienced practitioner who will be your trainer. As well as receiving weekly tutorials in the practice, you'll attend a day-release course of lectures and demonstrations, usually held in dental departments of hospitals.
Following successful completion of this course, you may enter a practice as either a self-employed associate or an assistant employed on a salary basis.
If you want to consider a career as a hospital consultant, you will need to undertake further specialist training in a hospital setting. Courses for specialist qualifications in areas such as orthodontics, implant dentistry and aesthetic dentistry are available. For details, consult the:
After you've completed your foundation training year, progression is possible to the role of associate or partner in a general practice. Many dentists eventually go on to own and run a practice. You'll need to take responsibility for the management of staff, budgets, tax, equipment and premises but will have the freedom to arrange your own working hours and specialist area.
If you go into hospital dentistry, you'll follow a defined career structure and training pathway and will have to obtain recognised postgraduate qualifications in order to progress to senior posts. The four main specialisms in the hospital dental service are:
Within community dental services, experience is gained as a community clinical dental officer and you'll have the chance to gain postgraduate qualifications through part-time study. You could progress to a senior dental officer role, with a special responsibility in areas such as epidemiology or treating patients with special needs.
If you carry out work in universities with dental schools and teaching hospitals you can, with relevant postgraduate qualifications, progress to a senior lectureship or professorial post.