A female dentist in her office

Dentist Requirements: Becoming a Dentist

Whether you're curious about your dentist's educational background or have your interest in pursuing the profession, learning what it takes to become a dentist is easy! The requirements to become a dentist are rigorous, ensuring a high academic achievement quality and several years of practical education before seeing patients. We're highlighting the four main steps hopeful dentists often take to begin working in this well-regarded profession.

You probably know that medical doctors and lawyers need more years of schooling than the standard undergraduate degree. Dentists must attend dental school for at least four years, five if they do not already hold a medical undergraduate degree. Dentist requirements extend beyond education, though. Dental students typically need to complete additional training before they can start to practise, especially if they want to work for the NHS. Some students will even complete more schooling to work as a specialist.

Dentistry is a great and rewarding career that comes with an excellent salary and work-life balance. According to the UK government's National Careers Service, the average salary for an experienced dentist is over £85,000 per year, working 35 to 40 hours a week. There is also a possibility of being self-employed so that you are in charge of the hours you work. The next four sections will highlight what a person has to go through before becoming a dentist and the credentials to look for when researching your next dental health professional.

Dental Admissions Tests

The first step in considering a dental degree is determining the testing and prerequisites needed in the lead-up to university applications. Any secondary school student thinking about becoming a dentist needs to take either the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) or the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT). As the Dental Schools Council notes, it's typically recommended that students take the UCAT or BMAT the year that they are planning on applying to university.

Attending Dental School – Prerequisites and A-Level Requirements

When it comes to dentistry, competition is fierce as this degree is one of the most popular in the UK. Along with their UCAT or BMAT scores, most students also need to have three As at A-level, experience shadowing a dentist, and an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. An applicant must hold or be working towards A-levels (or equivalent) in biology and chemistry. At least one additional third subject is also required, preferably in a complementary field such as physics or mathematics.

Most dental schools are five-year programmes. Schools award a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (abbreviated as BDS or BChD). According to the Dental Schools Council, the two abbreviations are the same type of dentistry degree, meaning they involve the same coursework and practice methods. The only difference is the name. Look for either degree when confirming your dentist received the proper education or when researching programmes for yourself!

Typically the first two years of dental school focus on coursework, with lectures, seminars and tutorials. Towards your final year, the focus will shift to clinical training, as WhatUni points out. The exact course of training for a dentist will vary slightly from school to school.

Dental Foundation Training

Once dental school is complete, most students will do foundation training with a view to working for the NHS. The British Dental Association notes that as part of this Dental Foundation Training (DFT), graduates spend a year at approved practices to acquire further experience of working in the field. They also benefit from frequent tutorials with their supervisor.

Considering a Dental Speciality and Extra Schooling

Did you know that over 10% of dentists in the UK are specialists? They range from oral surgeons to orthodontists to paediatric dentists. As noted above, becoming a specialist requires more training – in some cases, as many as five extra years of education and clinical experience. Once a dentist has completed dental school and all the potential postgraduate training, they are ready to put their learnings into practice! They can set up a practice as a private dentist or work for the NHS, teaching patients the benefits of daily oral care, diagnosing and treating cavities or other dental problems, and generally helping patients have the healthiest mouths possible.

Hopefully, this information gives you a deeper understanding of how to become a dentist. You can rest assured any dentist who earns a BDS or BChD degree will have had the adequate training needed to clean your teeth, teach you proper oral care, diagnose dental issues, and offer the best course of treatment. And although the road to becoming a dentist is a long one, it's well worth it for those who have a passion for improving people's oral health. Everyone needs dental care, and thus this profession is in high demand and serves a worthy cause.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.