Dentistry is a challenging and rewarding career which includes many possible roles. In order to become a dentist, it is necessary to take a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) degree at a dental school. This page outlines the things that a potential applicant needs to know before applying to a dental school.
There are three types of dental degree:
- Standard degree – A five-year programme resulting in a dentistry degree.
- Graduate entry degree – An accelerated pathway within a five year programme for those with a previous degree in a relevant subject.
- Dentistry with a preliminary year – The standard degree with an additional year at the beginning for those who achieved highly at A-level but did not take the required science subjects.
In addition, there are ‘access to dentistry’ courses designed as a route for learners who do not have formal qualifications at A-level. These courses are run by further education colleges. For more on access courses and what should be expected of them, see the Access to medicine and dentistry document from the Dental Schools Council and Medical Schools Council.
Applications are made through the UCAS website. The deadline for applications to degrees starting in September each year is 15 October of the previous year. This means that applicants need to be prepared much earlier than for the majority of other courses.
The exact entry requirements vary slightly between schools, but all require a high standard at A-levels or equivalent, with AAA at A-level or AAAAB at Scottish Highers a common requirement. There can be many small variations in entry requirements so it is very important to look through the dental schools’ websites and learn as much as possible. The graduate entry degree usually requires a previous degree in a biomedical-related subject with a minimum of a 2.1.
Many dental schools require applicants to have taken the UKCAT admissions test. They state on their websites if they require an admissions test. The UKCAT website holds a list of institutions which use the test.
Dental schools have a duty of care to the patients with whom dental students come into close contact during their studies. Therefore, dental schools require entrants to produce satisfactory evidence of immunisation against hepatitis B and non-infectivity for hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
If you carry a blood-borne virus and are considering a career in dentistry then it would be useful for you to read the guidance on this produced by the Dental Schools Council and partner organisations.
International applicants apply in the same way as UK applicants. Non-UK equivalent entry requirements are often listed on dental schools’ websites; where they are not listed, the dental school’s admissions department can be contacted directly to learn more. Note that candidates from outside the European Union will be charged international fees to study. These fees vary between dental schools and can be learned on the dental schools’ websites. The British Council produces useful guidance for non-UK applicants.
Students for whom English is not their first language are required to undertake the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
In addition to things like entry requirements, it is important to learn about the dental schools’ varying admissions processes (such as multiple mini interviews and selection centres) and teaching styles (such as problem-based learning and the spiral curriculum). The dental schools’ websites contain information about their approaches and it is always good for candidates to learn which approaches might suit them best.
The guiding principles for the admission of dental students document relates to the selection and admission of students to dental school and, through the Dental Schools Council, has been agreed by all UK undergraduate dental schools.