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How to become a dentist

Dentistry is one of the most popular degrees in the UK and there is a lot of competition for university places. To qualify as a dentist, you need to complete a dental course which usually takes five years and leads to a bachelor’s degree (BDS or BChD).

Dentistry requires diagnostic, clinical and social skills and offers the opportunity to pursue several careers with unique intellectual and practical challenges. To become a successful dentist and enjoy the profession, good people skills and an interest in welfare are essential.

Some dentists become teachers or lecturers in dental schools, others will be employed in hospitals or community clinics, but most will become General Dental Practitioners (GDPs). Dentists often manage a team of people encompassing dental nurses, hygienists, and receptionists. Good administrative and managerial abilities are required.

Dental degree

Becoming a dentist requires completion of a dental course, which usually lasts five years and leads to a bachelor's degree (either BDS or BChD). There are four-year courses available at Aberdeen, Kings, Liverpool and UCLan dental schools for students with prior qualifications, for example a degree in Biomedical Sciences.

Dentistry is one of the most popular degrees in the UK and there is a lot of competition for places. To support people hoping to become a dentist, the Dental Schools Council offer some useful information about different courses and entry requirements.

There are sixteen dental schools in the UK of which two are graduate entry. There are also two postgraduate entry dental institutes. Upon qualification dentists must register with the General Dental Council (GDC), the profession's governing body.

Dental Foundation Training or Vocational Training

The first step to becoming an NHS dentist is Dental Foundation Training (DFT) or Vocational Training (VT). This is supervised training, working in an approved practice for one year after graduation.

After this, there are many different career options open to dentists; for example, working in hospitals or community dentistry, however most dentists choose to work in an established practice as an associate who is responsible for the treatment provided, but working in a practice owned by someone else.

Once qualified, dentists can continue to update and further their knowledge, through a wide range of short courses and postgraduate qualifications, sometimes on a part-time basis.


Dental Core Training (DCT)

Dental Core Training (DCT) is a UK-based training program for dental professionals who have completed Dental Foundation Training (DFT) or equivalent. The program is designed to provide a structured learning experience that develops clinical and non-clinical skills in preparation for specialty training.

DCT usually lasts for one year and provides trainees with the opportunity to work in a variety of clinical settings. During DCT, trainees work under the supervision of experienced dental professionals, including specialists in different areas of dentistry.

DCT is a great option for specialisation and allows for progression while working in general practice. At the end of DCT, trainees may choose to apply for specialty training in a particular area of dentistry or continue working in general dental practice.

Student funding

The main sources of funding available to support students hoping to become a dentist is student loans and NHS bursaries. For the first four years of a standard dental degree students apply for funding through the relevant student finance agency.

Loans help to pay for tuition fees and living costs, but you might get extra money on top of this, for example if you’re on a low income, are disabled or have children. In addition to student loans and bursaries, there are a variety of sources of funding open to dental students including hardship funds, career development loans, cadetships and more.

BDA support to become a dentist

Join the BDA after receiving A' Level results and securing a place at dental school.

Find out more about our student membership package.

Download our university pathways brochure that explores further the steps to get into dentistry and areas you can specialise in.