Diagnose and treat teeth and mouth problems, work to prevent dental disease, and promote oral health

What does a dentist do?

Dentists educate people on how to care for their mouth and teeth, and provide treatment for any problems that occur. Services provided 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

What do I need to do to become a dentist?

You can get into this job through a university course.

You'll need to complete a 5-year degree in dentistry approved by the General Dental Council, followed by 1 to 2 years of postgraduate dental training.

When you apply for a dentistry course, you could be asked to take the University Clinical Aptitude Test or BioMedical Admissions Test. They test the skills you'll need on the course, like critical thinking, problem solving, data analysis, communication and scientific knowledge. You’ll also need to have good hand-eye coordination, and excellent communication skills to explain treatments to patients. 

You may be able to apply for a 4-year dental degree course if you've already got at least an upper second class degree in biology, chemistry or a biomedical subject.

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

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 3 A levels, usually at grades AAA to ABB, including chemistry and biology

More information

Restrictions and requirements

You'll need to:

Related skills

  • Attention to detail
  • Business management
  • Communication
  • Customer service
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership
  • Literacy
  • Physical fitness
  • Problem solving
  • Technical ability

Academic route

  • Five GCSEs (A-C), including English, maths and science subjects
  • Three A levels, usually at grades ranging from AAA to ABB, including chemistry and biology

Related subjects

  • Biology
  • Chemistry

Essential qualifications

  • A General Dental Council (GDC)-approved dentistry degree
  • Postgraduate dentistry training

Where to find out more


Once qualified, you’ll need to register with the General Dental Council.

Further information

You can find out more about becoming a dentist from the British Dental Association and Health Careers.

Where could I be working?

Most opportunities are in general practice as a self-employed dentist. With experience, you could go on to become a partner in the practice or set up your own practice. In your own practice, you'll have the flexibility to develop your knowledge in areas that are of particular interest to you.

You could also work at a hospital, where you'll complete further training in specialist areas, or as a dentist in the armed forces, where you'll provide dental care for service men and women and their families at locations in the UK and overseas.

You may need to wear a uniform and protective clothing.

Career opportunities

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. You could also specialise, for example in implant or paediatric dentistry.

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.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

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