Good dental hygiene brings happiness and satisfaction for beauty and life experience. Keep reading for a guide on a dentistry career in the UK to bring about this satisfaction for others.

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Academic Routes

Technical Routes

Academic Routes

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Further Education

Higher Education

What do I need?

The qualifications required depends on the occupation within Dentistry you choose to pursue. To become a qualified dentist, you must achieve a Bachelors degree in Dentistry. If you’ve already got a degree in a science-related subject like Biology you can take up a four year accelerated dentist course. All courses must be approved by the General Dental Council (GDC).

Dental school admission is notoriously competitive and many require you to sit the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) or BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT). The UCAT test is used to “select applicants with the most appropriate mental abilities, attitudes and professional behaviours required for new doctors and dentists to be successful in their clinical careers“.

UCAS applications for undergraduate Dentistry courses close in October. If your intention is not to become a dentist but something more vocational or less academically taxing, the requirements differ. We give you all the details of how you can navigate this below.

Further Education

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A-Levels

BTEC Diploma

Access to Higher Education

Further Education is considered Level 3 education in the UK (England, Northern Ireland, and Wales). The most common further education route is A-Levels, but it is not the only option. There are coursework based alternatives like BTEC. To pursue a Bachelors degree (Level 4) or any other undergraduate qualification, you must complete this level of education first.

A-Levels

A-Levels are exam based courses taken post-secondary education. Usually, people take from 3 A-Level subjects as most university courses require at least 3.

If you have decided what career you would pursue within Dentistry (e.g. Dental Hygienist, Dental Technician, Periodontist) choose A-Level subjects that are related to the area. We suggest that you take A-Levels in Biology and Chemistry as these are usually compulsory at any level in the industry.

Do note that A-Levels are not practical. Which means if you do not intend on pursuing higher study, you should be building experience in your field while studying. Read more about internships and work experience here >>

What qualifications do I need for A-Levels?

A-level courses will usually require at least 5 IGCSEs (A*-C)/CSECs (Grades 1-3). Mathematics and English Language passes are usually mandatory to possess. It is best to check the specific requirements of the university or college you intend to go to, as the entry requirements may differ.

To find A-Level courses search online or Contact us for help.

BTEC Diploma

The process of obtaining these qualifications are more practical, in comparison to the theory-based A-Level. You are assessed solely with coursework. These qualifications are available at different levels from Levels 1-3. At Level 3, the diploma can be equivalent to up to three (3) A-Levels.

BTECs can be taken alongside other qualifications (such as an A-Level) and can permit entry to university. In some cases for undergraduate Dentistry courses, BTEC qualifications are not accepted at all or unless in conjunction with an A-Level in Biology. For other Dentistry related degrees like Dental Hygiene, the exceptions are broader.

Depending on what you’re looking for, a BTEC in Dental Technology, Applied Science, Social Care (Science pathway), Medical Science would be a great start.

What qualifications do I need for BTEC?

Depending on the BTEC diploma you’re pursuing; Level 3 BTEC diplomas will usually require at least 5 IGCSEs (A*-C)/CSECs (Grades 1-3). Mathematics and English Language passes are mandatory to possess as well. It is best to check the specific requirements of the university you intend to go to as the entry requirements may differ.

To find BTEC courses search online or Contact Us for assistance.

But what if I’m over 18 and I have no Level 3 qualifications? We got you below.

Access to Higher Education

Access to Higher Education aka Access to HE is tailored for students aged 19+ who intend to apply for an undergraduate course. These courses take one year, performing as a fast track to higher education.

Tip: Access to Higher Education courses in Science, Medicine, Life Sciences etc. are among good options for subjects related to Dentistry.

Do note that it may be difficult (but still possible) to gain admission to a Dentistry related university course with an Access to HE diploma as the area is extremely competitive. Gaining relevant experience would assist to cross this barrier.

What qualifications do I need for Access to HE?

Science-based Access to HE diplomas will usually require at least 5 IGCSEs (A*-B)/CSECs (Grades 1-2). Mathematics and English Language passes are customarily mandatory to possess as well. It is best to check the specific requirements of the school you intend to go to as the entry requirements may differ.

To find Access to Higher Education courses search online or Contact Us for assistance.

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Higher Education

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Foundation Degrees

Undergraduate Degrees

Postgraduate Degrees

To practise as a qualified dentist, once you’ve completed your undergraduate degree the next step is to register with the GDC.

Foundation Degrees & Foundation Years

Foundation courses can be taken if your results/tariff points accumulated in a Level 3 qualification were not high enough to allow entry to a standard three-year Bachelors course.

There are two foundation options:

  • Foundation Degree – a standalone qualification (1-2 years) equivalent to one or two years of a Bachelors degree. A top-up degree can be taken afterwards to get the full Bachelors degree.
  • Foundation Year – this is the first year of a four year degree consisting of = 1 foundation year + 3 years of a standard Bachelors degree. At the end of the four-year course, you will receive the same qualification as a three-year Bachelors degree student.

Entry to Dentistry related courses with lower entry requirements may not be called Foundation courses but may still function as one. For example, the University of Bristol offers both a Gateway to Dentistry course and the standard Dentistry course.

Entry to the Gateway version of the course would require at least BBC at A-Level while the standard five-year degree route would require at least AAA.

After you complete a Foundation degree qualification (instead of an integrated Foundation Year) you can complete a top-up which takes one year to achieve the full Bachelor’s degree.

What qualifications do I need?

It often varies per university and course so you should check the entry requirements per course on UCAS.

To find Foundation courses, enter your area of study and search Foundation degrees here. In the filters select Foundation to only view Foundation courses.

Undergraduate Degrees

All applications to undergraduate courses are accessible via UCAS. Undergraduate courses can come in the form of foundation degrees, HND or Bachelors level. 

Dentistry is on offer as a degree in the UK. If you are still wavering about this career path, remember a career in Dentistry is not limited to solely being a dentist. You can do a degree in Dental Technology, Dental Hygiene, Bio-Dental Science and Technology, Dental Nursing etc.

For more varied degree choices, Combined/Joint Honours courses or courses with a variety mix of subjects may be better suited to you. For example a BSc Oral and Dental Health Sciences (Dental Hygiene and Therapy).

Searching “Dentistry” or “Dental” courses on UCAS throws a wealthy bunch of options for you to choose from.

How do I choose which degree?

With the copious choices given, it may make it difficult to decipher which is best for you.

To start narrowing it down, we suggest you first look at the entry requirements to the course and assess your existing or prospective exam/coursework results.

Next, have a look at the modules done by the university and assess if those are relevant to your career if you’ve already chosen. Also view the teaching quality at the university.

Finally, use comparative websites like Discover Uni or the Complete University Guide to compare course satisfaction and other statistics to make informed decisions.

If you have sports or other extracurricular interests you can research universities which offer these to keep your hobbies alive.

Tip: Some university courses offer an integrated placement year (otherwise known as a sandwich) where you get the option to work in your industry. This provides you with at least one year of experience in your field before graduation.

To view all higher education options and courses, enter your area of study and search courses here.

What qualifications do I need?

It varies per university but largely universities require at least 112 tariff points. Grades in A-Level tend to be at least AAC-AAA for Dentistry related courses. BTEC diploma grades required tend to be at least DDM (often in conjunction with A-Level Biology). Check the entry requirements per course on UCAS.

Some courses have foundation entry options which allow you to gain the Foundation qualification and continue to the full Bachelor’s course with lower entry requirements.

Postgraduate Degree

If you already have an undergraduate degree and would like to make a career swap, or you would like to pursue further education we’ve got options for you. To swap into Dentistry you would have needed to complete an undergraduate in a science centred degree prior.

To progress in your career, specialisation is key and a good method of doing this is through postgraduate study. Postgraduate options can be found in Dental Public Health, Maxillofacial & Craniofacial Technology etc.

Similar to applying for an undergraduate degree, click here to view options and courses, enter your area of study and search courses. Filter options to Postgraduate. (Some postgraduate courses may not be listed on UCAS so do independent searches online).

Technical Routes

Gaining work experience in Dentistry is a plus especially as it applies to university admissions. There are no non-academic entry routes to becoming a dentist in the UK as you are required to have a BDS accredited degree.

Building relationships with professionals in the industry will build your network and this can be done through volunteering and internships. As with any other field, experience is essential in setting yourself apart in the recruitment process. For this reason, we highly suggest taking advantage of available volunteering and/or internship opportunities wherever possible.

The following are technical developments to improve your chances within a career.

There are no apprenticeships or internships on offer to become a Dentist.

Dental nurses do have vocational options, and can start working as a trainee and study towards the national certificate in dental nursing or the level 3 diploma in dental nursing while working.

Dental Technicians have the option to do a higher apprenticeship in dental technology or to become a trainee dental technician while studying part-time.

Internships

Completing an internship can help you to gain crucial experience. These can be found via LinkedIn, and/or simply via Google.

You can source internships directly by researching dental practices online or networking with dental professionals.

If you discover that internships are not being advertised, you can still apply but you will need to pitch to the Hiring Manager and convince them on why you should be offered an internship position at their practice. If you would like some advice on doing that Contact Us and we will be happy to help.

Have a browse of some internships in the UK here >>

Volunteering

Volunteering is the act of willingly using your time to work with a cause or mission you are interested in. This is usually unpaid, but try not to decline unpaid opportunities especially if you have no experience (if you can afford it). Given your work ethic and circumstances, you may eventually be offered a paid position. Remember, from volunteering or working you are building an invaluable network and you gain a head start in your field due to on-the-job learning.

To find volunteering opportunities, you can enquire at various dental practices to seek work shadowing or voluntary work and gain experience.

For volunteering opportunities in the UK click here >>

Independent Research

Use online resources to build knowledge in your field. Keep abreast with the news, and listen to podcasts or books about your field.

YouTube is your best friend. There are many videos available teaching you more about Communications. Find your niche and the information will be easier to research.

To find out what immigration hurdles you must pass to pursue education in the UK click here. For financial 411s click here >>

Unsure about what Dentistry is? Read our explanatory post here.

Need help applying for university in the UK? Click here >>
Posted by:Nandina Hislop

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