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Dentist Dental surgeon, dental practitioner

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Dentists diagnose and treat teeth and mouth problems, and work to prevent dental disease and promote oral health.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £36,000 to £102,500 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 35 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You'll need to:

  • complete a 5-year degree in dentistry approved by the General Dental Council (GDC)
  • register with the GDC
  • complete up to 2 years of postgraduate dental training

If you've a degree in biology, chemistry or a biomedical subject (2:1 or higher), you may be able to apply for a 4-year dental degree course.

There's a lot of competition for places at dental schools.  

When you apply you'll take the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) to test your reasoning and decision-making skills.

You may be able to get NHS funding to pay for your course fees and help with your living expenses.

The British Dental Association (BDA) and the General Dental Council have information on dental training.

Health Careers has information on becoming a dentist.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • excellent communication skills
  • the ability to carry out delicate work with medical instruments
  • the ability to concentrate for long periods
  • leadership skills for managing the dental team
  • business and management skills for running a dental practice

3. What you'll do

Most dentists are self-employed and work as general dental practitioners (GDPs) providing dental care to the public. You could do this work privately or for the NHS, or both.

You'll keep records for each patient. You'll tell them how to care for their teeth and provide treatment for any problems that occur. Your services might include:

  • dental treatments like fillings, extractions and fitting dentures and bridges
  • teeth whitening
  • taking X-rays and giving local anaesthetics
  • referring patients to a dental hygienist or dental therapist

If you're running your own practice, you'll be responsible for the day-to-day management of the business and dental team.

As well as general dental practice, you could also work in:

  • the community dental service (CDS) – providing treatment to people with special needs, young children and the elderly
  • hospitals – carrying out specialised dental work, such as restorative dentistry, orthodontics and oral surgery
  • dental public health - improving the dental health of your local area, rather than treating individuals
  • the armed forces – providing dental treatment for services personnel, including those in combat zones

You'll use a range of dental and surgical techniques and instruments. In a hospital you'll carry out some procedures in an operating theatre.

You'll work with other dentists, NHS professionals, government departments and related agencies.

4. Salary

Starter: £36,000 and £45,750 (NHS dental trainee)

Experienced: £38,500 and £82,500 (NHS salaried dentist)

Highly Experienced: up to £102,500 (NHS consultant)

If you're self-employed, you could earn between £50,000 and £110,000.

Your salary will depend on your area of dentistry.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

In general practice you'll usually work between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. You'll occasionally work in the evenings or at weekends, or on an out-of-hours rota.

In a hospital, you'll usually work slightly longer and more irregular hours including night shifts.

You’ll usually need to wear a tunic, surgical gloves and safety glasses to reduce the risk of infection.

6. Career path and progression

As a dentist in general practice you could go on to become a partner in the practice or set up your own practice.

If you’re working in the hospital dental service, you’ll be able to follow the same career structure and training pathway as a hospital doctor.

As a consultant, you'll often find work opportunities in the private sector.

With experience, you could lead a team, or manage a unit or department.

You could also progress to teaching and training students, trainee dentists and other healthcare professionals.


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Last updated: 02 April 2018