How To Become A Dentist

Imagine being the architect of smiles, the guardian of oral health, and the provider of pain relief for countless individuals. Such is the life of a dentist, a rewarding profession that combines the precision of science with the finesse of art. But the path to this esteemed career isn’t a stroll in the park, and most dentists study for years, even after becoming general dental practitioners. 

So, what does it take to don the white coat and wield the dental drill with authority? Let’s explore how to become a dentist with the skills to pay the bills and the steps involved in this journey.

The Path to Becoming a Dentist 

Becoming a dentist requires dedicated hard work and a strong academic background. Through various stages of this process, potential dentists interested in dental public health hone their abilities to efficiently meet dental health needs within different teams that treat patients with an array of oral conditions. It all begins by getting into A-level classes in science areas such as biology and chemistry. Then, it is time for prospective practitioners to complete their studies at specialised institutes like dental schools, where they gain invaluable expertise ready for active use in actual cases and dental specialities. All these experiences help shape future professionals who will be capable of dealing confidently with any challenge presented when they work in a dental practice. Becoming part of a strong dental team, working alongside a dental therapist, dental hygienist, and dental nurses, and communicating effectively are all part and parcel of the journey. 

Academic Requirements

Achieving success in becoming a dentist requires strong foundations in science and excellent grades, especially scientific knowledge in Biology and Chemistry. These disciplines give aspiring dentists an indispensable knowledge of human anatomy via dental foundation training, which is essential when diagnosing dental issues such as oral disease. 

Dental schools look beyond academic results to form an impression about applicants. Hence, factors such as personal statements expressing interest in the field and references from third parties attesting talents or abilities are highly considered along with prospective interviews to determine commitment level towards this career path, among others. 

Dental School Admission

Gaining entry into dental school is an intensely competitive experience. The essential step in the journey, which is submitting your application, involves taking either the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) or Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT), writing a personal statement and participating in interviews. All these facets assess not only one’s academic capabilities but also their ability to think critically and effectively learn how to treat dental problems. 

Dentistry Degree Programmes 

Those who wish to pursue a fulfilling career in dentistry must go through an intensive academic program, culminating with the award of a dentistry-approved Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) or BChD degree. This training pathway typically starts at dental school, where students undertake lectures and seminars on oral diseases, dental health, and good oral hygiene for five years – unless they possess a 2:1 degree, allowing them to take up an accelerated graduate-entry programme lasting four years, which ends with becoming a dentist.

The later parts of core training involve clinical experience in a supervised practice. Working within community clinics diagnosing dental conditions and treating real patients suffering from various ailments until qualification is achieved by following foundation training designed as stepping stones towards the successful completion of a BDS/BChD qualification. From there, you can work towards roles such as a dental surgeon or dental practitioner and become an experienced practitioner in your own right.

Registration and Legal Requirements

A dentist needs to have certain legal credentials in order to practice oral health. This involves obtaining a degree in dentistry, being registered with the General Dental Council (GDC), undergoing criminal records checks and potentially owning a clean driving licence if there is ever any need for community work via car journeys. 

General Dental Council (GDC) Registration

The General Dental Council (GDC) is the body responsible for regulating dentistry in the UK. To become a qualified dentist, an individual must register with them after completing their undergraduate degrees successfully. Candidates from overseas can also begin practising here by taking and passing GDC’s Overseas Registration Exam (ORE).

To maintain registration, all members of this professional organisation need to renew annually – so that they remain up-to-date on dental standards and expectations established by it. Guidance and resources are provided to help keep professionals well-informed about changes within their field as they occur over time.

Diverse Career Opportunities

The field of dentistry offers an expansive selection of positions and workplaces for newly qualified dentists, each offering its own unique opportunities as well as difficulties. From the vibrant atmosphere in a high street practice to the precise nature involved with oral and maxillofacial surgery roles, there’s always something exciting for dental professionals to explore within their career prospects. Dental care offers many avenues for expansion, including paediatric dentistry, restorative dentistry, and even emergency treatment. Some dentists choose to work in dental services such as mobile clinics, community dental services, or nursing homes, fitting dentures or administering cosmetic procedures.

Work Settings

General Dental Practitioners often work in an approved dental practice as self-employed professionals, providing a wide range of patients with the necessary care, often setting their own working hours. This could involve anything from high street establishments and hospitals to community services. Alternatively, they may seek employment within public organisations, which provides the opportunity to utilise their educational background while gaining valuable experience. Although this route might provide fewer resources than private practice, it is worthwhile pursuing.

The financial rewards of pursuing a career in dentistry are attractive, as newly qualified practitioners may earn around £35,000 on the NHS. Earning potential can be increased with experience and further education, and self-employed contractors working at dental practices have the flexibility to set their own rates.

Non-Clinical Roles

Outside of their day-to-day duties in the dental office, dentists have other options to take advantage of their skills and knowledge. These alternate roles offer a different atmosphere as well as fresh challenges such as research projects, managing practices or teaching programs at universities or colleges. Other healthcare professionals, such as receptionists and office managers, are still healthcare professionals, and you must work closely with them and the rest of your dental team to work effectively.

IMAGE: https://unsplash.com/photos/man-in-white-dress-shirt-sitting-on-black-office-rolling-chair-QA9fRIi6sFw

META: A dentist showing his patient a treatment plan with a replica set of teeth 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to qualify as a dentist? 

It takes a minimum of seven years of both studying and supervised clinical practice to achieve the required level necessary for qualification as a dentist. 

Can you become a dentist without A levels?

A-levels are the most commonly required entry requirements to study dentistry in the UK, yet Pearson BTEC qualifications, foundation degrees, or other Level 3/Level 6 equivalents might be accepted as well. For this reason, it is wise to research the exact admission prerequisites with universities and colleges in advance. 

What GCSEs do you need to be a dentist in the UK?

In order to become a dentist, you need to have attained 7 GCSEs at grade B or higher (6 and above), including English Language, Maths, and one Science subject. 

How hard is it to get into dentistry?

Due to the highly competitive landscape of dental school applications, universities usually demand higher grades at A level than most other subjects. Getting into Dentistry is thus quite challenging as such high standards must be met.

What is the role of the GDC?

The GDC oversees the behaviour and registration of dental professionals in order to ensure that UK dentistry upholds high standards of practice, ultimately safeguarding patients.

The London Dental Institute

Gain your postgraduate qualifications with the LDi and find your niche in oral surgery, restorative dentistry, and more with our unique PG Dip. courses. Speak to one of our team today or check out the course info here.