Dentistry is a challenging subject that is demanding at both an academic and technical level. It is also a competitive course for which to gain entry and successful applicants will be required to demonstrate strong academic potential in addition to possessing the values and skills of a dentist.
Choosing subjects at school
If you are interested in studying dentistry, it is important that you plan ahead by familiarising yourself with dental schools’ entry requirements. Dental schools usually require applicants to hold A levels (or equivalent qualifications) in chemistry and biology/human biology. For students taking A levels, unless it is specified by the dental school you are applying to, there is usually no particular subject requirement for your third A level (after meeting the two lab-based science subjects usually required to study dentistry).
However, there are usually two exceptions to this:
- Your third subject must not be similar to your other A levels, eg Biology and Human Biology or Maths and Further Maths
- Critical Thinking, General Studies, Citizenship Studies or Extended Projects are usually not accepted as third subjects by dental schools.
You should make sure you check the entry requirements of each dental school you wish to apply for carefully.
Typical conditional offer
A level or equivalent
Generally, most entrants will require three As at A level or equivalent qualifications. One subject, sometimes two, must be in a lab-based science (this means chemistry or biology) and many dental schools view physics and mathematics as complementary subjects. Gateway courses for dentistry may offer lower entry requirements for those that meet the eligibility criteria to apply.
GCSE or equivalent
Grades at GCSE or equivalent are usually considered as part of the application process for dental school. Make sure to check dental schools’ minimum GCSE requirements before applying.
You will also need
When applying to study dentistry, you will be required to take an admissions test in the same year as you are submitting your application.
Successful applicants will be invited by dental schools to interview. Find out more about what this involves in the interview section.
If you are accepted onto a dentistry course, you will be required to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Enhanced Disclosure check prior to starting your degree programme.
All dental students are also required to undergo screening for blood borne viruses (Hepatitis B and C, and HIV).
Do your research
The UCAS website has a list of dental degrees in the UK, along with minimum entry requirements. Remember that admissions criteria for dental schools can change every year, so always check the websites of the dental schools you are interested in before you make your application. These websites will have the most up-to-date information and will allow you to learn more about the dental schools themselves.
Many dental schools use contextual information to understand an applicant’s academic potential by placing their qualifications in the context of their socioeconomic and/or educational background. This is called ‘contextual admissions.’ There are many contextual factors that may be used by the medical school.
The two main factors used by dental schools are consideration of the:
Educational background of the student
- There are a range of factors that can be used such as school achievement data (for example, the average GCSE (or equivalent) performance of students at the school or the number of students progressing to higher education) or the composition of the school (for example, the percentage receiving free school meals).
Socio-economic background of the student
- This may include an assessment of the level of disadvantage a student may have faced (using the index of multiple deprivation) or their family background (using income or socio-economic assessments).
Dental schools often use different contextual factors together. The contextual information is then used in different ways, it can be used to:
- Consider if an applicant should be invited to interview
- Consider the test or interview scores within the applicant’s educational or social context
- Provide an offer for an access route or alternative pathway to medicine
- Give further consideration to the application if the student just misses the grades they were predicted.
To find out if a course offers this, and whether you qualify, you should see the entry requirements section on the course’s webpage. Look out for information relating to ‘widening participation’, ‘widening access’ or ‘contextual admissions.’
Some dental schools will accept students with vocational qualifications as an alternative to A levels, such as the BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma in Applied Sciences or the Access to HE Diploma. The entry requirements for these qualifications can be quite specific, for example, you may need to take certain modules and achieve a specified grade in those modules. Before embarking on a course, make sure to contact the dental schools you are interested in to discuss the transferability of your chosen qualification.