Becoming a dentist

Dentists can pursue their careers in several 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). 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.

General Dental Council

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

Most dentists choose to work as family General Dental Practitioners (GDPs). In order to do this a dentist must undertake Dental Foundation Training (DFT) or Vocational Training (VT). This is supervised training, working in an approved practice. After this, the dentist usually enters an established practice as an associate, a self-employed dentist, responsible for the treatment that they provide, but working in a practice owned by someone else.

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.