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Becoming a dentist

Brixton Health Centre, dentist, 2013 (76).jpg

Dentists can pursue careers in many different areas:

  • Family practice                                     

  • Hospital dentistry

  • Community dentistry                            

  • Armed forces dentistry

  • Corporate bodies                                 

  • Industry dentistry

  • University teaching and research

Being a dentist demands diagnostic, clinical and social skills and allows you the unique opportunity to pursue several careers which offer an intellectual and practical challenge as well as a service to society and a respected place in the community. In order to be successful and enjoy this profession, it is essential that you possess good people skills and an interest in their welfare.

Some dentists will become teachers or lecturers in dental schools, others will be employed in hospitals or community clinics, but most will become general dental practitioners. Often, they will be managing a team of people encompassing dental nurses, hygienists, receptionists and others. Good administrative and managerial abilities are required.

Dental degree

To qualify as a dentist you need to complete a dental course, which usually lasts five years and leads to a bachelor's degree (either BDS or BChD).

Dentistry is one of the most popular degrees in the UK and there is lots of competition for places. The Dental Schools Council offers some useful information about different courses and entry requirements.

General Dental Council

Upon qualification dentists must register with the General Dental Council, the profession's governing body. Dentists must follow ethical guidelines in their dealings with patients and failure to do so may call their continued registration into question.

Dental Foundation Training / Vocational Training

In order to do work in the NHS a dentist must undertake Dental Foundation Training (DFT) or Vocational Training (VT). This is supervised training, working in an approved practice.

After this, there are many different career options open to dentists; for example working in hospitals or community, however most dentists choose to work in an established practice as an associate. This is self-employed dentist, responsible for the treatment that they provide, 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.

Practice ownership

Later on, a dentist may often become a practice owner (principal), either by becoming a partner, buying a practice or establishing a new practice. It is essential to have an aptitude for business, since the dentist is a manager and team leader who is running a small business.