Becoming a dentist is a long and demanding journey but one that you will not regret. Dentistry courses in the UK are a popular choice for those who dream of working in the medical environment.
Many of us have a love-hate relationship with our dentist, which swings between fear and gratitude, depending on whether we are waiting for our six monthly check-up and imagining twinges, or relieved that the pain we have been suffering has suddenly gone away. One thing which is beyond dispute, however, is that dentists are irreplaceable, and however much automation and new technology changes the work landscape, dentists will always be highly in demand – and very well paid, with graduates earning upwards of £34,000 in their first job.
Dentistry courses in the UK have an excellent worldwide reputation. Indeed, London’s King’s College University was ranked No.1 in the world in the QS World University Rankings for dentistry in 2020, while UCL, the University of Birmingham and Queen Mary, London, all featured in the top 20.
Taken together, these facts mean that securing a place on a dentistry course in the UK is highly competitive. You will need to show excellent marks in biology and chemistry in your secondary school final exams, or achieve an IB score of 37 or more, and provide proof of English Language proficiency, by sitting IELTS and gaining an overall mark of 7, with nothing lower than 6.5 in any one paper.
In addition, dentistry admissions require you to pass either the UCAT (the majority of universities )or the BMAT, entry aptitude exams which test your reasoning and communication skills, academic knowledge and problem-solving abilities. Most dentistry admissions procedures also include an interview stage and you would be well advised to check typical questions on the internet, or to ask Elab to put you in touch with a Mentor who is currently studying dentistry, to get a idea of what to expect.
Since dentists work in such close proximity to their patients, you may well need to provide evidence of immunisation against Hepatitis B and a negative test for Hepatitis C. Health screening is part of the admissions procedure.
The most popular universities for studying dentistry courses in the UK include:
- University of Dundee
- Queen Mary, University of London
- University of Manchester
- Plymouth University
- University of Aberdeen
- Queen’s University of Belfast
- University of Birmingham
- University of Glasgow
- University of Liverpool
- King’s College London
- University of Cardiff
- University of Bristol
- University of Leeds
- University of Sheffield
Practical facts about studying dentistry courses in the UK
Courses in dentistry are overseen and approved by the British General Dental Council, the profession’s governing body. You will study a vast range of topics related to oral health and, from the first year onwards, you will undertake practical, supervised procedures. Dentistry courses run for five years.
If you have graduated in a related course, with a 2:1 or higher, you may be eligible to apply for the four-year accelerated dentistry course. Contact Elab for further details.
The first year of your studies focusses on core medical concepts, such as anatomy, oral biology and chemistry, and gradually over the course of the degree you will tackle prosthodontics, peridontics, operative dentistry as well as epidemiology, pathology, microbiology and behavioural sciences – among many topics. By year three, you will be doing independent practical procedures, and working in the dental school as well as in the local community. On qualifying, you will be awarded a Bachelor’s degree in Dental Surgery (BDS), register with the GDC and start the mandatory one-year foundation training supervised by an experienced and approved practitioner. Once you have completed this, you are free to set up your own practice or apply to work in an established clinic, a hospital, or with the armed forces etc.
Career paths and prospects after finishing a dentistry course in the UK:
Qualified dentists have a number of careers choices, including becoming a:
- General Dentist
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
- Paediatric dentist
- Hospital dentist
- Public Health dentist .
If you decide to open your own practice, you will be responsible for training and hiring others, setting up a supply chain, dealing with taxes and running a business. However, on the positive side, you will be able to set your own working hours and enjoy more freedom than your employed peers. Whatever option appeals to you, dentistry opens the doors to a satisfying, brilliant and highly lucrative career.