What is dentistry?
Every year, dentists help millions of people keep smiling. As a dentistry student, you’ll learn how to diagnose, maintain, and improve people’s oral health. You’ll also explore cosmetic dentistry, helping people feel more confident and attractive through aesthetic surgery of their mouth, gums, and teeth.
You’ll learn and apply a combination of medicine, science, people skills, and many other disciplines, before you’re a qualified dentist – an achievement that normally takes five years or more.
Dentistry course entry requirements
Qualifications in chemistry and/or biology are requirements for most universities, with physics and mathematics also viewed by many as complementary relevant subjects. The expected grade standards for dentistry are broadly higher than most subjects, as is true for all medicine degrees.
A levels – Entry requirements range from BBB to AAA, with the universities and colleges most commonly asking for AAA.
Scottish Highers – Entry requirements for Highers (the most common qualification) range from BBBBC to AAAAA, with universities or colleges most frequently requiring AAAAB. Occasionally, universities ask for Advanced Highers to supplement Highers. If Advanced Highers are requested, universities or colleges typically ask for AA.
Vocational courses – Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma, or an SCQF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative to A levels/Highers by some providers. It’s essential that you check alternative entry requirements with universities or colleges.
There are also many soft skills you should be looking to demonstrate when applying for a dentistry degree, including bedside manner, high levels of concentration, and accuracy, clear thinking, ability to work under pressure, and mental/physical stamina.
- Apply by 15 October
- Attend an interview
- Pass an entry test
- Show work experience
- Submit a portfolio
- Audition for a place
Will I need to take a UCAT for dentistry, like medicine students do?
Not necessarily, but some universities will require you to successfully pass the UCAT (University Clinical Apptitude Test). This test determines whether you have the best combination of mental abilities, attitudes, and professional behaviours that are appropriate for an aspiring medical practitioner. Find out more about UCAT.
Why study dentistry at university?
Dentistry offers a very clear career path for students, one with outstanding salary and employment prospects. Once qualified, you can expect to be earning upwards of £30,000 as a starting graduate salary, and it’s not unusual for dentists to achieve six-figure sums after some years of practise.
The rapid development of scientific technology means that dentistry can also be a fast-paced and exciting industry to work in. Emerging technologies brings new specialisms to the subject, in addition to the many sub-sets you can already choose from: orthodontist, paediatric, cosmetic and aesthetic, endodontist, and many more.
And of course, the feel good factor of medical practitioners applies just as much to dentistry as to any other field. As a dentist, you will be helping people stay healthy and happy on a daily basis.
Some modules you may study are:
- Patient assessment
- Oral biology
- Digestive, renal, and endocrine systems
- Paediatric dentistry
- Healthcare ethics and law
- Clinical skills
Even if you decide not to pursue a career in dentistry after graduating, you will have acquired a vast range of skills, and a demonstration of commitment, which will give you solid prospects in many fields. Over your five years of study, you will have mastered a high degree of technical expertise, resilience and stamina, advanced people skills, and many other desirable traits.
What kind of work experience should I be able to show for dentistry?
Not all universities will expect you to have worked in a dental practice by the time you apply, but you should be able to demonstrate your commitment to a caring profession, and resilience to one which can be very demanding.
Take a look at our advice for your dentistry personal statement.
What can you do with a dentistry degree?
Most dentistry graduates will go on to become dentists, generally in the following capacities:
- dentist (NHS, private, military etc.)
- dental hygienist
- dental technician
But, your interdisciplinary skills will also be useful in a number of dentistry-related careers including:
- medical lecturer
- clinical academic
- medical researcher
- laboratory technician
- medical technology professional
- health aid worker
What’s it like to study dentistry?
Dentistry is not an easy ride, but it is a rewarding one. As a medical qualification, both the entry requirements and the course demands are rigorous – as befits a process which allows you to treat and operate on patients.
Studying dentistry is a varied and dynamic experience, which develops as the five-year course progresses. The first year will generally offer a grounding for the subject, primarily in lectures and seminars. The second year will offer chances to begin specialisation in certain areas of dentistry, and from the third year you will begin to amass practical experience. You will have the opportunity to observe specialists at work, and treat your own patients under supervision.
There is less flexibility on dentistry courses than other degrees, as there are more mandatory modules, to ensure graduates have the required skills to enter medical practice. In terms of learning styles, you will generally be:
- writing reports and essays
- attending lectures and seminars
- observing professional dentistry
- carrying out supervised practical dentistry
Classroom time in dentistry is similar to other medical degrees, which is much higher than other qualifications. Expect to spend between 24 – 27 hours per week in the classroom, or in practical environments, as the course progresses.
Are you considering an accelerated degree? Click here to read more about the possibility of completing your undergraduate course on a shorter timescale.
If you want to combine work and study while earning a salary, you could consider an apprenticeship. Which apprenticeships are available, and how you apply, depends on where you live.
Find out more about apprenticeships across the UK.
Each apprenticeship sets out occupational standards for specific job roles, designed by employers. The standards outline the skills, knowledge, and behaviours required to demonstrate that an apprentice is fully competent in the job role.
Higher apprenticeships (Level 4)
Discover more about apprenticeships in medicine, dentistry and nursing
Our guide has all the info you need to know about doing an apprenticeship in this industry. Find out what it's really like from current apprentices and decide if it's the right route for you.