Job Description:

Dentists diagnose and treat teeth and mouth problems, and work to prevent dental disease and promote oral health.

Job Category:
Health Care & Social Assistance

What you will do:

Most dentists are self-employed and work as general dental practitioners (GDPs) providing dental care to the public. You’ll keep records for each patient. You’ll tell them how to care for their teeth and provide treatment for any problems that occur. Your services might include:

  • dental treatments like fillings, extractions and fitting dentures and bridges
    teeth whitening
  • taking X-rays and giving local anaesthetics
  • referring patients to a dental hygienist or dental therapist

If you’re running your own practice, you’ll be responsible for the day-to-day management of the business and dental team.

As well as general dental practice, you could also work in:

  • the community dental service (CDS) – providing treatment to people with special needs, young children and the elderly
  • hospitals – carrying out specialised dental work, such as restorative dentistry, orthodontics and oral surgery
  • dental public health – improving the dental health of your local area, rather than treating individuals
  • the armed forces – providing dental treatment for services personnel, including those in combat zones

You’ll use a range of dental and surgical techniques and instruments. In a hospital you’ll carry out some procedures in an operating theatre.

You’ll work with other dentists, medical professionals, government departments and related agencies.


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of medicine and dentistry
  • the ability to read English
  • be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • excellent communication skills
  • the ability to carry out delicate work with medical instruments and work well with your hands
  • the ability to concentrate for long periods
  • leadership skills for managing the dental team
  • teamwork skills for working with others as part of a team
  • organisational, business and management skills for running a dental practice
  • customer service skills
  • physical skills like movement, coordination and dexterity
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a dentist in the United Kingdom, you will typically need to follow a specific educational path, and your choice of GCSE subjects can influence your eligibility for future study in dentistry. While specific requirements can vary between dental schools, there are some key subjects that are generally recommended to pursue in order to build a strong foundation for a career in dentistry. These subjects include:

  1. Sciences: Science subjects are particularly important for aspiring dentists. You should consider taking GCSEs in Biology and Chemistry as a foundation for your future studies in dentistry. These subjects are often prerequisites for admission to dental programs.
  2. Mathematics: A good understanding of mathematics is essential for various aspects of dentistry, including measurements, calculations, and understanding scientific data. A GCSE in Mathematics is highly recommended.
  3. English: Strong communication skills are crucial for dentists, as they need to explain procedures to patients and document patient records accurately. GCSE English can help you develop these skills.
  4. Physics: While not always required, a GCSE in Physics can be beneficial because it provides a foundation in the physical sciences, which are relevant to certain aspects of dental practice.
  5. Additional Sciences: If possible, consider taking other science-related GCSEs, such as Human Biology, to deepen your understanding of the human body and biological processes.
  6. Additional Mathematics: Some dental programs may require or prefer a higher level of mathematics. Consider taking Additional Mathematics or Further Mathematics if you excel in the subject.
  7. Languages: While not mandatory, learning a foreign language can be advantageous, especially if you plan to work with diverse patient populations or if you’re considering studying dentistry in a region where another language is commonly spoken.
  8. Physical Education (PE): Dentists may spend long hours on their feet, so maintaining good physical health is important. Physical Education can help you stay fit and healthy, which is beneficial for your overall well-being.
  9. Work Experience: In addition to your GCSE subjects, gaining work experience in a dental setting can be valuable. It can provide you with insight into the profession and demonstrate your commitment to a dental career.

After completing your GCSEs, you will need to pursue A-levels (or equivalent qualifications) in subjects like Biology and Chemistry, which are typically required for entry into dental school. Keep in mind that admission to dental programs is highly competitive, so achieving high grades in both your GCSEs and A-levels is crucial.

It’s also important to research the specific admission requirements of the dental schools or universities where you plan to apply, as requirements can vary slightly between institutions. Dental programs may also consider other factors, such as the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) scores, so be sure to check the admission criteria for the schools you’re interested in.

Post School

To become a dentist, you will need to complete a specific set of educational and professional requirements. These requirements typically include:

  1. Bachelor’s Degree: You’ll need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. While there isn’t a specific undergraduate major required, most dental schools require applicants to have completed certain prerequisite courses in subjects like biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics.
  2. Dental Admission Test (DAT): You’ll need to take the Dental Admission Test (DAT), which is a standardized test that measures your academic and scientific knowledge. Your DAT scores are an important part of your dental school application.
  3. Dental School: After completing your bachelor’s degree and meeting the prerequisites, you will need to attend a dental school. Dental school typically takes four years to complete. During this time, you will study a wide range of subjects related to dentistry, including dental anatomy, oral pathology, radiology, dental materials, and clinical skills.
  4. Clinical Experience: Dental school includes clinical rotations where you gain hands-on experience treating patients under the supervision of experienced dentists. This is a crucial part of your dental education.

You’ll need to:

  • complete a 5-year degree in dentistry approved by the Dental Council in the country where you practice.
  • register with the relevant authorities
  • complete up to 2 years of postgraduate dental training

If you’ve a degree in biology, chemistry or a biomedical subject (2:1 or higher), you may be able to apply for a 4-year dental degree course.

Just understand that there’s a lot of competition for places at dental schools.

In the UK, Australia & New Zealand, when you apply you’ll take the University Clinical Admissions Test (UCAT) or the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) to test your reasoning and decision-making skills.

Working Hours and Environment:

In general practice you’ll usually work between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. You’ll occasionally work in the evenings or at weekends, or on an out-of-hours rota.

In a hospital, you’ll usually work slightly longer and more irregular hours including night shifts.

You’ll usually need to wear a tunic, surgical gloves and safety glasses to reduce the risk of infection.


Career Path & Progression:

As a dentist in general practice you could go on to become a partner in the practice or set up your own practice.

If you’re working in the hospital dental service, you’ll be able to follow the same career structure and training pathway as a hospital doctor.

As a consultant, you’ll often find work opportunities in the private sector.

With experience, you could lead a team, or manage a unit or department.

You could also progress to teaching and training students, trainee dentists and other healthcare professionals.