Getting your dream job: Dentist

Dentists are medical healthcare professionals who work with patients to treat dental and oral disease and injuries and to prevent dental health problems. Most dentists work as general dental practitioners, usually in a high street dental practice

What do dentists do?  

As a dentist, you will typically be examining the dental and oral hygiene of patients, and either offering advice, or carrying out dental and surgical procedures. Other tasks may include:

  • operating technical equipment such as X-ray machines
  • keeping accurate records of patients’ dental structure (which may need to be used to identify individuals)
  • keeping up-to-date with developments in dentistry
  • working with a medical nurse and a medical receptionist
  • continuing training and specialising

You may be required to work some overtime and weekend slots, but hours tend to be a lot more regular than those of medical doctors.

Typical employers of dentists

Most dentists work as general dental practitioners (GDPs), usually in a high street dental practice, and are self-employed contractors.

Some roles are available in community dental care, working in community clinics and other settings with patients referred to the service because of difficulties accessing high street dental care. For example, community dentists work with children with special needs and people with severe physical disabilities. 

There are also roles available in hospital dental care. This involves advice and treatment for patients referred for specialist dental care, for example, for oral and maxillofacial surgery or orthodontics. Hospital dental services also provide dental care for hospital patients, whether it is required because of an emergency or because of a long stay, but they do not provide treatment to the general public. The patients of hospital dentists tend to need more complex treatment than those of general dental practitioners. 

Qualifications and training required:

In order to work as a dentist you will need to have a degree in dentistry. This is typically a five-year course with high entry requirements. Some dental schools offer one-year pre-dental courses to broaden access to other students. There are a few accelerated four-year courses available for candidates who already have undergraduate degrees.

For most courses, you will be required to take a test such as the UK clinical aptitude test (UCAT) or BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT).

Key skills for dentists:

  • Communication
  • Patience
  • A thorough and methodical approach
  • Ability to work long hours, often under pressure
  • Good ethical grounding
  • Teamwork skills

Recommended IBDP subjects needed to apply to university to study dentistry:

Chemistry HL and Biology HL.