How to become a dentist: your complete guide

Dentistry is a rewarding and exciting career path, offering opportunities to improve the oral health and overall wellbeing of patients.  

If you’re considering a career in dentistry, you may be wondering what steps you need to take to become a qualified dentist.  

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the field of dentistry, the qualifications and courses required to become a dentist, and the potential career prospects in this field. 

What is dentistry? 

Dentistry is the branch of medicine that focusses on the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and conditions affecting the teeth, gums, and oral cavity.  

Dentists are responsible for performing routine check-ups; diagnosing and treating dental problems; and educating patients on the importance of oral hygiene. 

How to become a dentist 

To become a qualified dentist, you will need to complete a dental degree programme and gain registration with the General Dental Council (GDC). The following steps outline the general pathway to becoming a dentist: 

Gain a strong educational foundation 

To begin your journey towards becoming a dentist, you will need to have a solid foundation in mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physics. This can be achieved by completing A Levels in the likes of Physics and Biology. 

Complete a dental degree 

You will need to complete a five-year dental degree approved by the GDC. These programmes usually consist of a mix of lectures, practical clinical training, and exams. After completing the degree, you will be awarded a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) degree.  

Gain registration with the GDC 

After completing your dental degree, you will need to register with the GDC in order to practice as a dentist in the UK. This involves passing the GDC’s registration exam, which assesses your knowledge and clinical skills.  

Consider postgraduate training 

Many dentists choose to pursue postgraduate training in a specific area of dentistry, such as orthodontics or periodontics. This can help to improve your career prospects and earning potential. 

What courses do you need to be a dentist? 

To become a dentist, you will need to attend university and complete a dental degree programme approved by the GDC. As mentioned previously, these consist of lectures, practical clinical training, and exams.  

The modules you will study as part of your dental degree may include subjects such as dental anatomy, pharmacology, dental materials science, and oral pathology. 

How long does it take to become a dentist? 

Becoming a dentist typically takes around five years, although the length of time may vary depending on the specific course and institution you choose.  

In addition to the five-year dental programme, you will also need to complete a period of vocational training before gaining full registration with the GDC.  

Is dentistry a good career? 

Dentistry can be a highly rewarding and fulfilling career, offering opportunities to make a real difference in patients’ lives.  

According to the National Careers Service, the average salary for a newly qualified dentist in the UK is around £30,000 to £40,000 per year, with more experienced dentists earning up to £80,000 or more.  

In addition to the financial rewards, dentistry also offers opportunities for professional development and specialisation. Dentists are able to pursue a range of specialisms such as orthodontics, endodontics, and oral surgery. 

What skills do I need to be a dentist? 

  • Good communication skills 
  • Dentists need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively with patients, explaining treatment options and answering questions in a way that is easy to understand. 
  • Attention to detail 
  • Dentistry requires a high level of precision and attention to detail, whether you are performing a routine check-up or a complex surgical procedure. 
  • Problem-solving skills 
  • Dentists must be able to diagnose a wide range of dental problems, and to develop treatment plans that are tailored to each patient’s individual needs.  
  • Manual dexterity 
  • Dentistry requires a high level of manual dexterity, as dentists must be able to work effectively with their hands, often in confined spaces.  
  • Empathy and compassion 
  • Dentists must be able to empathise with their patients and show compassions, particularly when patients are experiencing pain or anxiety.  

By developing these skills, you can increase your chances of success as a dentist and provide the best possible care to your patients.  

Becoming a dentist is a challenging but rewarding career path that requires a blend of academic qualifications, practical experience, and a range of key skills.  

With the right training, dedication, and perseverance, you can embark on a fulfilling career as a dentist, providing top-quality care to patients and making a positive difference in their lives.  

Have we inspired you to become a dentist? If you’re interested in gaining the knowledge you need and starting your journey toward becoming a dentist from the comfort of your own home, we can help you with our A Levels courses.