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Armed forces

Military dentistry provides treatment for soldiers, sailors and air force personnel.

​Lightweight portable kit is used in operational environments and onboard Royal Navy ships not equipped with a permanent surgery. The provision of primary dental care for the forces, close to their deployment area, is just one of the fundamental tasks for military dentistry.


The Defence Dental Services are responsible for providing dental care at 200 locations for over 196,000 service personnel. Overseas, it also provides primary dental care for service families and entitled civilians. Each dental officer (DO), at clinic level, has approximately 1,100 patients to look after. The equipment and surgeries are modern (they currently have a ten-year replacement life) and a wide range of dental materials are available. A clinical referral service for specialist care is also available.


Career pathway

Direct entry by graduates into all three services is available up to 55 years of age. Candidates must have a dental qualification which is registrable in the United Kingdom, be physically fit and in good health. There are also regulations relating to citizenship status of candidates from outside of the United Kingdom.


Each service has a selection process that candidates must undergo before appointment to a commission. Commissions are confirmed after completion of the Officers Basic Military Training Course. These courses differ in length and content for each service, but generally last between eight and twelve weeks. This time is spent remote from dentistry, learning new skills to equip dentists for life in the military environment.


  • Officers Basic Military Training Course (8-12 weeks)
  • Short Commission (3-8 years)
  • Postgraduate training and some military training
  • Medium Commission
  • Full Commission

All DOs join the service of their choice on a Short Commission (SC). The SC varies from three to eight years, depending on the service, and they may be extended in certain circumstances.


During this time, officers are expected to undertake postgraduate training (PGT), starting with the MJDF, and some military training. The military training varies, but all three services provide courses in leadership and management to equip officers for broader employment within their service. Professional dental training is covered below.


Having embarked on a military career, DOs may be considered for a Medium Commission (MC) after completion of two years’ service. The MC takes officers to 18 years of Service from their date of commissioning or to the age of 39 (whichever is the later).


Following appointment to a MC, officers may be considered for a Full Commission (FC) which takes them to retirement at the age of 58.


Reserve Commissions are available for dentists wishing to pursue a part-time career in the forces.

In short, Dental Defence Services qualifying criteria are:

  • Direct entry up to 55 years of age
  • UK registered, physically fit, good health.

Life after the forces

A number of armed forces dentists continue their profession having resigned their commission. The armed forces employ dentists as civilian practitioners and some former armed forces dentists take roles either in practice, in the salaried service or in a hospital setting, dependent upon the skillset they have developed within their armed forces career.


Further information

To find out more about working in the armed forces, read the BDA Career Guide.