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Overseas dentists working in the UK

Dentists who qualified overseas need to comply with a variety of requirements before working in the UK.

Qualification and registration

There are several routes for dentists to join the register depending on where they qualified.

Dentists qualified in the European Economic Area (EEA) used to benefit from automatic recognition based on EU law.  While Brexit means that the relevant EU law is no longer in place as such, the UK government has unilaterally put legislation in place that confirms that EEA-qualified dentists continue to benefit from quasi-automatic registration arrangements until 2028.

Dentists qualified from outside the EEA will generally need to sit the General Dental Council’s (GDC’s) Overseas Registration Exam (ORE). A small number of dentists who qualified before the year 2000 in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa are exempt from sitting the exam.

Until 8 March 2023, it was possible for overseas dentists to apply to be registered with the GDC in Dental Care Professional (DCP) categories, for example as a dental hygienist or dental therapist. This route is no longer open for new applications, and joining the DCP register is now only possible based on a formal DCP qualification.

Overseas Registration Exam

The ORE is an exam that overseas qualified dentists must pass to register with the General Dental Council (GDC) and practise dentistry unsupervised in the UK. Most applicants with primary qualifications from outside the EEA will be required to undertake the ORE. You can use the GDC’s questionnaire on the route to registration page to find out more about what you need to do.

The exam is designed to determine whether applicants hold the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes to safely practise dentistry in the UK. A candidate must show competence, knowledge and familiarity in the different aspects of dentistry outlined in the Learning Outcomes of the Preparing for Practice document. The exam has two parts, and there are four attempts at each part of the exam. ORE part 2 must be passed within five years of sitting Part 1.

Overseas Registration Exam Requirements

Before applying candidates must ensure they meet the clinical experience and English language requirements.

  • Clinical experience requirement: You must have at least 1600 hours of clinical experience, which can be during temporary registration with the GDC, personally treating patients in the dental chair, while undertaking appropriate investigations or administering dental treatment. This can be either during your dental degree, your post-qualification experience, or a combination of the two. This does not include time observing or assisting other dentists/dental students pursuing a diagnosis, planning or providing treatment
  • English language requirement. Different types of evidence are accepted, from an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic) certificate, a recent primary dental qualification taught and examined in English, a recent pass in a language test with a regulatory authority in a country where English is the first and native language, to recent experience practising in a country with English as the first and native language. The IELTS exam is currently the most straightforward proof as far as the GDC is concerned. You are required to have an academic IELTS certificate with a minimum average score of 7.0 and no single module lower than 6.5

  • An ENIC Statement of Comparability is also required.

How to apply for the Overseas Registration Exam

The GDC’s website has detailed information on the application process. Essentially, dentists must complete the ‘Overseas Registration Examination’ application form after reading the relevant guidance notes and ensuring they fulfil the requirements for the exam. They will also need to submit the relevant documentation, including a copy of their dental degree and certified translations of documents as necessary. At this stage, no application fee is required.

Once the application has been checked by the GDC, dentists will be added to the candidate list for ORE Part 1. They should also receive an email with instructions about setting up an eGDC account, through which an exam sitting can then be booked when places become available. Payment of the full exam fee is required at the time of booking a place.

All places on the exam are booked on a first come, first served basis.

The exam has been oversubscribed in recent years, and there is no guarantee that all candidates applying for a specific sitting will be able to secure a place. However, the GDC has announced that the number of places on future sittings has been increased so that more candidates on the waiting list will receive a place.

Once Part 1 of the ORE has been passed, candidates can then go through a similar booking process for places on Part 2 of the ORE. This is the practical part of the exam and will involve demonstrating clinical and communication skills. It also involves a medical emergencies test.

After the exam

Once a dentist has passed the exam, the GDC will confirm the results and invite them to register as a dentist via eGDC.

Information about the requirements of ongoing registration, for example compliance with continuing professional development (CPD) requirements and the need to have appropriate indemnity cover, will be outlined to the new registrant. Dentists should also always remain aware of Standards for the Dental Team.

Licence in Dental Surgery

The Licence in Dental Surgery (LDS) is an alternative registration exam to the ORE. It essentially follows the same requirements for application and competence demonstration, but it has three parts. It has fewer places and sittings than the ORE.

Additional training after overseas registration

Following registration, overseas dentists can work independently in UK private practice. To work in the National Health Service (NHS), there are additional processes to obtain the necessary permissions for this work and be included on relevant lists. These lists are held by the NHS with variations to the regulations in each country of the UK. Joining the lists is an administrative process and will require dentists to provide further information, such as Disclosure and Barring Service certification (or equivalent in the other UK countries) and/or police checks from their home country.

In England, all dentists applying to join the Performers List need to apply to join the list through Primary Care Support England (PCSE). Once the required information has been uploaded, PCSE will check this for completeness and pass it on to NHS England, which will invite the dentist to a structured conversation process. This is set out in NHS England’s Policy for managing applications to join the England performers lists.  If learning or support needs are identified, an educational/clinical support plan (ECSP) will be drawn up and offered to the applicant, using Agreement Terms to allow the applicant to practise. This agreement will set out how to monitor success against the terms and the process to follow if the terms are not satisfactorily completed. It will usually require the practice to support the applicant with some mentoring through the agreement terms.

In Wales, a more formal Performer Validation by Experience (PLVE) process is in place. This entails finding a job in a practice, with a named mentor who then needs to be approved by the team at Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) and might need to be trained to provide mentoring. The dentist will then work and complete a portfolio of evidence throughout the PLVE period, and at the end this portfolio will be assessed.

All dentists in Scotland must apply for a Vocational training number using an eGP21C form, while in Northern Ireland they must submit an HS48A form to NIMDTA, and work first as employed assistants, to practice in the NHS. A Vocational Training number is a prerequisite for holding a patient list and joining the NHS Health Board list.

In Scotland, all dentists new to the NHS first need to undertake some mandatory training provided by the deanery NHS Education for Scotland. Once they have gathered NHS experience and put this together in a portfolio of evidence, they can apply for a Vocational Training number based on that experience, and once approved, can join an NHS dental list to hold their own contract.

Permission to work (visa/immigration/sponsorship) for overseas dentists in the UK

All overseas dentists, whether from the EEA or the rest of the world, will need an appropriate work visa for the UK unless they already have the right to work. GDC registration alone does not fulfil this requirement. Essentially, non-UK dentists need to find a sponsor in the UK, usually a dental practice, to confirm the arrangement and link their visa application to that sponsor.

Dentists from abroad will usually need a Health and Care Worker Visa; they will undertake the application at their end and use what is called a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ that the sponsor provides for them to finalise the application. More detailed support should be obtained from a registered immigration adviser.  

For sponsors, there is a process to apply to the Home Office which will include an application, payment of a fee, and submission of certain documents. For additional information, members should engage an immigration lawyer registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner.

The BDA cannot advise on individual visa requirements as we are not registered to do so.

Resources

Our library offers a wide range of GDC recommended exam books for loan to help with revising for the ORE exam. As a member, email [email protected] or call 020 7563 4545 to request your login credentials.

Members also have access to the entire library catalogue, accessible either remotely or by visiting the library. We provide books, eBooks, journals, ejournals, literature searches, article packages, and requested articles.

Undertaking exams like the ORE, on top of moving to a new country, can be extremely stress inducing. The common symptoms associated with stress, such as anxiety, reduced concentration, mood swings, and increased reliance on alcohol or substances can accumulate and affect every aspect of life, both personal and professional.

Health Assured provides our members with a comprehensive counselling and support service and has also produced a guide to help you understand how to recognise and reduce stress.

Join us

We support members through every step of their professional journey, whether you are an overseas dentist, a student, an associate, or a practice owner, or working in the community or hospital services.

We offer over 166 hours of verifiable CPD per year available to members through our recently upgraded CPD hub. You can also access the BDJ portfolio and Europe’s largest dental library. As your trade union we will support you, providing entry to your local and national network of peers to help you along the way.

Overseas dentists who are qualified, working towards GDC registration and sitting the ORE or LDS exams in the UK can apply for essential membership with certain conditions in place. Once they complete their ORE and gain registration from the GDC, they qualify for all our general categories of membership.

To find out more about overseas membership please call us to join over the phone. This will allow us to check whether you hold the correct paperwork, or if you qualify for our ‘asylum seeker or refugee’ free membership.

Together we are stronger.

Together we are stronger

Joining the BDA

A BDA membership offers you the support and services you need throughout your dentistry career.
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