19 Aug 2015

Dentistry is a fantastic profession but one that requires a huge amount of work in order to qualify for. People who do qualify will still have a lifetime of learning and professional development ahead of them - which makes the profession very rewarding. Job prospects in dentistry are very high with 95% of newly qualifying dentists finding work within 6 months of leaving university.

dental chairWith that in mind I thought we'd take a look at what qualifications you will need to become a dentist.

Dentistry is a hard subject and you will be expected to have high GCSE results ranging from A-B. Minimum expectations will be Biology, Chemistry, English and Maths - most typically at A grade. Physics is also well regarded though not essential. These qualifications can be waived with enough university credits but you will need to achieve a significantly high number of credits compared to other courses.

The minimum expectations for A-Levels will be Chemistry and Biology. You will also need Maths or Physics (or both). According to the Which university guide if you have these four A-levels you will be eligible for all university dental courses in the UK. While Chemistry may not seem essential most university courses expect these two sciences.

Your dental university course will take 5 years to complete. The course includes significant amounts of time practicing dentistry. You are expected to complete a research project in your final year and you will have to complete minimum numbers of treatments - ranging from simple fillings to root canals. These benchmarks are mandatory to complete the course and become qualified.

Bear in mind that the dental course is incredibly tough with exams throughout the year. The first year is dedicated to basic anatomy and physiology while years 2-5 will involve actual dental practice and surgery. Be warned you will spend time examining and working on corpses - which can be scary for the first few weeks.

14 UK universities offer dental courses (according to the complete university guide). Of these universities some are more prestigious than others but all will teach a standardised course. The major UK cities all have dental courses from Plymouth and Bristol to London, Manchester and Glasgow. The London Universities of Queen Mary and Kings College have the highest rankings and amongst the highest entry standards.

Dentist explains to a patient x-rayThe bright side is that all the universities offering dentistry courses give you exceptional job prospects upon graduating. 99% of those completing a dental course will achieve a position within the first year of leaving university.

Post University Qualifications
Unlike many other degrees your time at university will by no means be the end of your education. As a practising dentist you are expected to keep abreast of all the developments in the field. This involves reading the regular academic journals and dental council updates, taking further courses and potentially specialising in sub-fields.

Further courses are vast in number and vary in degree of professional accreditation. They range from brand sponsored courses like the Oral b dental review courses to more specialised courses such as those from Eastman Dental Hospital. Add this to a huge number of conferences and research programs and dentistry always provides new learning experiences and challenges.

One of the most exciting parts of dentistry is the ability to qualify in a variety of sub-fields and specialisations. Maxillofacial surgery will take you to the hospitals as a surgeon and requires years more study while you can also specialise in everything from orthodontics to forensic dentistry - which has just a few dozen qualified practitioners worldwide.

Overall dentistry is one of the most lucrative and exciting fields to train in but it does require years of dedication and very hard work. Not a profession for the faint of heart.