Should I do a Dentistry Degree?

A dentist examining something closely with his arms folded.

If you wish to become a dentist, or any other specialty in the field of oral medicine, you must earn a BDS (Bachelors of Dental Surgery).

This is an intense five year course where undergraduates are taught everything from the basics of tooth anatomy to how to perform complex and daunting procedures such as tooth extractions.

Dental students have a unique experience at university.

Not only do they use conventional learning methods such as lectures and tutorials, a majority of the learning is also practical based. Dental students spend a large bulk of their time at university based in hospitals, developing clinical skills on simulators and then treating real patients.

The balance between the heavy content-based written-work and the more practical hands-on work is a huge pull factor for candidates.

Considering that all of the work you would carry out as both a student and a dentist is very hands-on, a good sense of manual dexterity is required. Candidates should have good hand-eye coordination to aid them when working in small areas such as the mouth.

Manual Dexterity

Very carefully using chopsticks.

Manual dexterity is often examined in interviews through different tasks and activities. That being said, admission officers aren’t expecting you to have the steadiest hands in the world, so don’t worry if your hands are slightly shaky at times! Your manual dexterity will be developed thoroughly throughout dental school, regardless.

Dentistry is often paralleled to art

If you are someone who enjoys working on intricate structures and sculptures, and are intrigued by human anatomy and pathology – dentistry is for you. All of the procedures you would carry out as a dentist have a medical purpose yet you have the potential to carry it out in an aesthetic manner. This can satisfy both your scientific/medical interests as well as your creative side.

What career can I have with a Dentistry Degree?

  • Endodontist: Root canal specialist.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: Oral surgery specialist.
  • Orthodontist: Alignment specialist.
  • Pediatric Dentist: Children dental specialist.
  • Periodontist: Gum specialist.
  • Prosthodontist: Replacement specialist.
  • General dentist

High Pay

A smartly dressed man posing for the camera

Dentists are well-paid professionals in the medical field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for all dentists was around £124,434.28 as of May 2011.

Individuals who operate their own businesses typically earn more just like dentists who work in larger metropolitan areas. Besides, according to the ADA Policy Institute 2015 Survey of Dental Practitioners, the average annual salary for independent private dental practitioners who owned all part of his/her practice was about £141,108.55. For dental specialists, it was about £265,251.57.

As you can see, a dentistry degree holder notes high pays once employed.

A-Levels and Entry Requirements

If you are planning to study dentistry at the university, ensure that your A-level line-up keeps all your options open and flexible when applying for any dentistry course.

Be sure to pick the right A-levels when it comes to studying dentistry.

A massive library filled with books.

Even though most courses will demand biology or chemistry or both, a few will expect maths or physics at A-level as well. Ideally, biology, chemistry and either physics or maths (or both) will keep all courses of dentistry open to you.

You’ll usually need 3 A levels, at grades from ABB to AAA (as a minimum).

If you do not do physics or maths but do biology and chemistry, most dentistry courses will accept you. If you only do one from biology or chemistry, few courses will allow you.

Whatever university you decide to join, be sure to look at their dentistry course’s entry requirements to figure out the most popular subject combinations dental students do before progressing to the university.

What do you study in a Dentistry degree?

A common misconception is that dental students only study medicine related to the oral cavity. In reality, whilst studying dentistry you will learn about the human body as a whole and then focus on head and neck medicine towards the later years.

Dental related modules include anatomy and histology of the oral cavity and its contents, tooth morphology and the development of caries. In later years the dental related modules become more specific to each specialty, for example you would be studying periodontology, endodontics, paediatrics, dental public health etc.

Most other modules are related to systemic conditions to allow the students to have a holistic understanding of medicine. These modules include immunology, thorax anatomy, metabolism, cardiovascular and digestive systems etc.

Modules such as professionalism, behavioural sciences and communication enhance students abilities to handle the social aspect of dentistry. Dental students are expected to have well developed interpersonal skills.

A dentist focused using his equipment

What skills or characteristics do you need to study Dentistry at university?

  • Communication

As a dentist, you will speak to different people everyday of your working life. This includes both patients and colleagues. As a health care provider it is essential that a dentist is able to communicate to patients clearly in order to avoid any misunderstandings and be able to provide the best quality of care. If communication is not up to the highest standard this could jeopardise the safety of the patient and valid consent may not be obtained.

  • Willingness to be a life-long leaner
An old man concentrating whilst reading his book

Being a medical field, dentistry is constantly changing.

There are new findings and innovative treatment methods that are always being discovered. As a dentist you must be aware of the new ground-breaking research which is taking place at the forefront of your field, even long after you graduate. This is achieved by reading dental journals, attending scientific conferences or perhaps even conducting your own research.

  • Manual dexterity

Most, if not all, procedures that a dentist would carry out require good manual dexterity.

You will be operating in a small area (the mouth), working on small teeth that may sometimes be hard to access. The ability to use your hands in a skilful, coordinated way to grasp and manipulate objects and demonstrate precise movements is essential.

  • Leadership

Dentists are part of a multidisciplinary team of many health care professionals. This may include dental nurses, oral hygienists, dental therapists etc. You must be able to lead a team efficiently and fairly to ensure you do justice to both your colleagues and your patients.

  • Good problem-solving skills

Every case you encounter as a dentist will be unique.

Every patient is an individual and should be treated as such. You may come across cases where there is no clear-cut diagnosis and you may have to think outside of the box to diagnose and treat your patient.

Furthermore, there may be more than one possible diagnosis or treatment plan that you could potentially carry out. You must be able to weigh up the pros and cons of each and finally decide on what would be in the best interest of the patient.

Entrance Exams (UCAT and BMAT)

Every dental school in the UK requires candidates to sit the UCAT exam, except for University of Leeds which requires the BMAT. The UCAT is an exam where candidates sit in a test-centre on a computer device. The exam consists of five sections: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, decision making, abstract reasoning and situational judgement. Candidates’ UCAT scores are taken into account during UCAS admissions.

UCAT scores hold different weights at each university. If your score isn’t the best, you should focus on applying to universities that don’t place a huge emphasis on UCAT as part of admissions. On the other hand, if you do very well in the UCAT it would be in your best interest to apply to universities where UCAT scores hold a lot of weight

Benefits of a dentistry degree

More job opportunities

A dentistry degree holder has more job opportunities in the medical field.

With a degree, someone can choose to work in many dental care areas – dentists, oral surgeons, higher education lecture, etc. Oral healthcare professionals are in higher demand in private hospitals and clinics while dental hygienists are favoured in education centres to help prepare dental students. Also, pharmacy companies hire degree holders to manage dental products.

A well-dressed man using an ipad to examine charts.


Dentistry is one of the highly respected professions in the world.

Dentists are community figures highly regarded and also trusted whenever and wherever they work. A British Dental Journal study claimed that dentist students revealed that status was a significant motivator for their pursuit of a dentistry career.

In the early 21st century, the importance placed on the dentists’ work increased thanks to the more public debates concerning the essence of preventative dental care.

Ability to help people

Dentistry is a service-oriented profession meaning that you will spend most of your time assisting other individuals, which is exceedingly rewarding to you as a dentist.

You can note significant improvements in individuals’ lives by restoring not only their smile, teeth, self-image but also self-confidence and ability to speak and eat properly. As a dentist, there will always be instant gratification when you can alleviate the pain from toothache. Or enhance a beautiful crown to restore the aesthetics and function of your patients’ teeth.

Autonomy in working

Most dentists are either self-employed or in partnership with more extensive practice.

Essentially, this gives someone autonomy in their work – you will not only practice dentistry but also manage your business. This entails selecting a location, designing your office, employing and managing hygienists as well as support staff, promoting the company, including monitoring the financial performance. Even though this can be stressful to some, most dentists appreciate the ability to make their own decisions that affect their lives.

Balanced lifestyle

A dentistry career path can offer you a balanced lifestyle between work, family, and social life, especially for self-employed practitioners.

Someone can choose how much they want to work in a week. Although most dentists work on a full-time basis, some will work three days only or during the evenings and weekends. In other words, it gives someone a lot of independence and allows them to set business and career goals to enhance a balanced lifestyle.

Job flexibility

Dentists are always on the move, meaning that they can bounce around from one patient to another for necessary dental treatment and routine checks.

While most do general dental practice, others perform specific kinds of dental work like tooth extractions or gum disease. Moreover, collaborating with office staff and hygienists makes your career enjoyable if relationships are healthy and proper maintenance of morale.

International skills

It may not be the first thing to ring your mind, but while politics, laws, and languages differ across borders, an individual’s teeth work the same. After graduation, you can stretch a bit too many places to look for work. A dentistry degree will succeed when it comes to securing you a job all around the globe.

The Bottom Line

Sets of false teeth together.

Doing a dentistry degree comes along with various benefits. We have already alluded to several careers that you can enter with a dentistry degree. For those looking for a respected, high-paying profession, dentistry is your take. So you should do a dentistry degree in a recognised university. Remember that the job market for this career path is becoming more and more promising due to the dramatically growing world.

We highly recommend going through this book before your interviews: “Dental School Interview: Questions and Answers“. It has full explanations to questions that may be asked in the interview.

If you have only MMI interviews and no panel interviews, “Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI) for UK Dental Schools” may be more useful to you. Its an Essential Guide to Multiple Mini Interviews and has over 300 questions analysed and also answered how an interviewer would expect an answer. It is the most up-to-date MMI book and is specific to UK Dental Schools.

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Thank you so much for the help and guidance.


What profession provides a better wage and more lenient working hours: Dentist or Optician?