How to become a dentist

How to become a Dentist: your complete guide

Are you interested in healthcare and passionate about helping people? Does the thought of a fulfilling career in dentistry bring a smile to your face?

Dentists are respected healthcare professionals who provide essential healthcare services and play an important role in promoting oral health and hygiene.

If you’re interested in becoming a dentist, this guide will tell you everything you need. It includes information on the role and responsibilities of a dentist, the qualifications you’ll need and the importance of ongoing healthcare training courses.

What is the role of a dentist?

Dentists play an essential role in the healthcare sector, diagnosing and treating conditions relating to the teeth and mouth. 

As a dentist, you may work in various settings including dental practices, hospitals and health centres. You might visit patients in residential care homes or even provide dental services in clients’ own homes. 

You’ll work with a team including dental nurses, therapists, technicians and hygienists, treating a diverse range of patients with varying dental health needs.

Patient care is at the heart of the dental profession. You’ll provide the best possible dental care, ranging from a regular check-up to emergency dental care. Your services will help improve oral hygiene, alleviate discomfort and could even prevent life-threatening diseases like oral cancer. 

Responsibilities of a dentist

Some of the key responsibilities of a dentist include:

  • Examining and diagnosing dental conditions
  • Promoting good oral health and hygiene
  • Performing treatments including fillings, crowns and root canals
  • Using advanced diagnostic equipment like X-rays and scans
  • Prescribing medications when necessary

Dentists must maintain confidential patient records and manage the administration of their practice or department. You’ll also need to be comfortable liaising with other healthcare professionals and managing your team. 

The challenges of the profession

Working in the field of dentistry is a complex profession that requires mental resilience, physical endurance, and excellent interpersonal skills. You will need to be able to deal with high-pressure situations, manage distressing conditions and provide patient care with empathy.

Becoming a dentist: What qualifications do I need?

The pathway to becoming a dentist requires commitment and dedication. It starts with an approved dentistry degree which usually takes five years to complete. There’s also an accelerated route that takes four years to complete, which is open to applicants who already hold a 2:1 degree in a related science.

Dentist degree courses are very competitive. Applicants typically need to have three A levels (or equivalent qualifications) with high grades, usually including biology and chemistry. 

Some universities may require applicants to sit the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) or BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT). You may also be asked to attend interviews and provide personal statements to support your application.

It can help your application if you provide evidence of relevant work or volunteer experience to show your interest in the profession. You may be able to find volunteering opportunities at local NHS trusts or charities or find a work experience placement in a private dental practice. 

Registration with the General Dental Council (GDC)

Once you have successfully completed your dentistry degree, you will need to register with the General Dental Council (GDC). Registration is a legal requirement for anyone working as a dentist in the UK, and you must renew your registration annually to continue your practice.

Dental Foundation Training

The next phase of your journey is one year of supervised Dental Foundation Training (DFT). This will take place in an approved dental practice, where you’ll work closely with an experienced practitioner.

The importance of CPD training for dentists

Dentistry is a dynamic field, and your learning doesn’t end once you’re a registered dentist. 

You’ll be encouraged to undertake postgraduate qualifications and short courses to ensure you stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in the field of dentistry. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is not only beneficial for your career progression but also mandatory for GDC registration renewal.

Online CPD courses allow you to study at your own pace, making them a convenient way for busy dentists to fit their CPD training into their schedules. Caredemy online healthcare courses are CPDSO accredited, and learners can choose to study online or download the course materials to study at a time that suits them.

As a dentist, CPD courses that may interest you include topics such as:

Caredemy provides all learners with access to an online personal learning dashboard, which helps you keep track of your CPD training, and you can contact our friendly Student Support team for help with any queries.

Once you’ve successfully completed your end-of-course assessment, you can download a nationally recognised course certificate. This can be used as evidence that you have met the GCD CPD requirements.

Becoming a dentist: a rewarding profession

A career in dentistry can be very rewarding. Your services will improve your patient’s overall health and well-being, enhance their confidence, and could even save lives by early detection of oral diseases. 

Working as a dentist will give you the satisfaction of making a difference in your patients’ lives on a daily basis, which is not something that every profession can offer.

Becoming a dentist is a very competitive and challenging pathway, but if you have a passion for the profession, don’t be deterred by these challenges. Instead, try to view them as the stepping stones to a fulfilling career.

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