How to Become a Dentist in the UK

The dentist is a vital member of your healthcare team. Their expertise and care can help to prevent dental disease and restore damaged teeth.

However, there are a number of problems affecting dentists in the UK today. One of these is funding.


If you wish to become a dentist in the UK, you will need to have a number of qualifications. These include a good schooling and GCSE grades in English, Maths and Science as well as A levels in Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

A degree in dentistry will typically take five years (six if you need a foundation year) and is rigorous academically and technically. Your studies will cover the cause, prevention, precaution and treatment of oral diseases.

After graduation, you can start your career as a general dental practitioner or specialise in different areas. You can work in a private practice or in the NHS and you can also set up your own clinics.


Dentists in the UK are expected to complete a five-year undergraduate training programme and obtain a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) or Bachelor of Clinical Dentistry (BChD) qualification. Once qualified, dentists need to register with the General Dental Council.

The GDC also sets standards for the content and scope of undergraduate dental courses. It publishes its requirements for all new degree programmes and identifies any programmes that may not be suitable to meet the required standards.

Applicants who are not EEA nationals can qualify as dentists by taking the Overseas Registration Examination (ORE) and achieving the necessary English language results. They must also meet the GDC’s requirements for fitness to practice before they can practise in the UK.

If you’re not a UK national, you will need to obtain temporary registration with the GDC in order to work as a dentist in the UK. The GDC can help you with this process and also give advice on the qualifications and experience needed to work in this sector.


If you are keen to work as a dentist in the UK, it is important to understand the training required. It takes several years of study and practical experience to become a qualified dentist, and registration with the General Dental Council (GDC) is essential before you can practice in the country.

Entry requirements to dental programmes vary by university but you will typically need three A Levels or equivalent qualifications, with high marks in chemistry and biology. Some universities may also require you to take the UCAT exam, which is a computer-based assessment of cognitive abilities, attitude and professional behaviours needed by dentists.

Dentistry courses in the UK typically take five years to complete (six if you need a foundation year) and involve a lot of hands-on training. Classes, coursework and a research project are all part of the learning process. During your course, you will be involved in treating patients and performing procedures such as fillings and root canals.


Dentists need a minimum of five years’ training at university to qualify. These include a vocational year working as an assistant dentist, a foundation dental degree and specialist training (typically 3 to 5 years depending on the specialty).

After gaining their dentistry qualifications, most dentists go into general practice in the NHS, private practice or other settings. Some choose to specialise in hospital or academic dentistry.

In England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, those wishing to work in general dental practice must have their names on the relevant NHS Performers list or undergo additional training. Alternatively, they can apply for ‘equivalence’ which allows them to work on a non-NHS basis.

Specialty training is also available and can lead to a higher salary. This typically takes place at a recognised Specialist Orthodontic School for three years, after which the graduate can be listed on the GDC’s specialist orthodontic register.

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