The Ultimate Guide to Studying Dentistry in the UK

Admissions

7/29/2021

Dentistry is not a job.

A job is just another way to get by – dentistry is a vocation.

When you get into a vocation, you have to ask yourself if you're ready for lifelong learning and commitment to a single discipline.

The good news is that this career is a genuinely core service and makes a real difference to people’s lives.

Read on for a deep dive into dentistry admissions.


Introduction to Dentistry

1. Reasons to study dentistry 

Read about Samar’s journey into dentistry and her pros and cons

2. Is getting into dentistry competitive?

Dentistry is competitive. There are fewer dental schools than medical schools. This makes it even harder for you to get a place. On average there is a 15:1 application to place ratio for undergraduate dental schools.

3. Should I study dentistry or medicine?

Want to investigate medicine further? Find out how to get into medical school.

4. How long does it take to become a dentist?

To become a dentist, you need to do a degree in dentistry. A standard undergraduate degree will take 5 years, but other routes can take 6 years. After graduating, you can register with the General Dental Council. After registration, you’re officially a dentist. 

Instead of a 5-year course, you could do a 4-year graduate-entry course. To do this, you need to have a degree.

After qualifying, you will need to undertake extra training to progress your career.


5. Average cost of studying dentistry

To do a standard 5-year degree, your tuition fees will be around £9,250 a year, so in total this will cost £46,250. Along with this, you’ll also have the additional costs of accommodation, textbooks, and utilities. 

For 2018-19, the average cost for accommodation was around £147 a week (this will be higher in areas like London), so in total accommodation could cost you around £36,750 for 5 years. 

Ultimately, studying dentistry can cost you over £83,000. However, you’ll have funding support from the government and you can also search for scholarships.

Don’t worry too much about the loan. After graduating, you’ll only repay when you earn above the UK threshold of £27,295 a year, which comes to a gross of £2,274 a month, or £524 a week (figures taken from UCAS.com, 2021). After 30 years, the loan is written off regardless of the balance.

This means that if you decide to change to a less well-paid career, you’ll still be ok. If you remain in dentistry, your earnings are likely to be high enough for you not to worry about the monthly repayments, which will be taken from your salary directly.


Dentistry Admissions

1. How can I make my application stand out?

Your dental school application isn't a one-trick talent show. Having one excellent grade or one impressive bit of work experience won’t make your application stand out.

Think about your application holistically. 


2. Which subjects do I need in order to study dentistry?

GCSE & A-level entry requirements: The typical offer for dentistry is AAA, with some universities asking for A*AA.  Most dental schools insist that you have A-Levels in biology and chemistry. 

The minimum grade requirements for GCSE can vary greatly between universities. For example, the University of Birmingham requires an A*/8/9 in GCSE Biology and Chemistry and an A/7 for Maths. Conversely, the University of Leeds requires 6 GCSEs above B/6 including Chemistry, Biology, English and Maths. Check the university websites to see what they require.


3. Do I need to take an admissions test?

You will have to take an admissions test. You’ll either have to take the BMAT or the UCAT depending on the university you’re applying to. 

The UCAT is an online exam designed to test cognitive skills. For more information on the UCAT check out our article covering everything you need to know about the UCAT.

We also offer online and live UCAT courses and are the world’s most established UCAT provider.

The BMAT is a written exam that tests your scientific knowledge at GCSE level and your critical thinking, problem-solving and writing skills. Read a complete guide to the BMAT and check out Medify’s online BMAT course for more information.

These exams are designed to be challenging and can have a significant effect on your application. Prepare thoroughly. 


4. Do I need to have an interview?

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll receive an offer without an interview. In fact, most universities clearly state that they won't give any offers without an interview. There are two main ways you could be interviewed:

  • Panel Interviews

You’ll be faced with a panel of interviewers who will ask you questions.

You’ll rotate around stations, and at each station you’ll have a new interviewer and a new interview question or task.

Take a deep dive into dental interviews.


5. What kind of work experience do I need?

Ideally, you should aim to get 2 weeks of work experience in a general dental practice. Many universities insist on this, including the Universities of Sheffield, Newcastle and Manchester. 

Learn more about dental work experience and how to reflect on it.

6. Dentistry personal statement

A personal statement for dentistry needs to focus on why you want to do dentistry and what makes you suitable for the course. 

You need to reflect on your work experience and extracurricular activities to show the admissions tutors you have everything they’re looking for. 

Read the dentistry personal statement article for more advice on how to ace your personal statement.

7. The golden question for interviews and personal statements: ‘Why do you want to study dentistry?’

This is a common question you’ll face in your dental school application journey. You’ll need to be able to answer this in your personal statement and you’ll most likely be asked this at an interview. Here are some do’s and don’ts for answering this question:

Do

Don't

Talk about personal experience - If you had a personal experience that led you to want to study dentistry, discuss it and reflect on it.

Use clichés - Avoid phrases like ‘I’ve always wanted to be a dentist’ or ‘I really enjoy helping people.’ This may be the case, but it’s what everyone says.

Talk about your work experience - Mention something you saw in your work experience that spurred you on to pursue dentistry.

Talk about salary - It may be an incentive for you, but you don't want to come across as money-minded.

Take a balanced approach - Discuss the positives and negatives of a career in dentistry (so you won’t sound naive).

Disrespect other professions - Interviewers may ask you why not a dental nurse? Or a dental hygienist? - Speak about all other professions with respect, as without them you wouldn’t be able to do your job.

Back up what you say - If you’re going to say you enjoy hands-on jobs, tell the interviewer about a hobby of yours that requires hands-on skills.

Talk about family members in dentistry - This can influence your decision, but it’s important to focus on your own reflection rather than someone else's experience.


8. What’s the deadline for dental applications?

The deadline for UCAS application is the 15th of October. Applications submitted after this are usually not accepted due to the competitive nature of the course. Your school or college may have an earlier internal deadline in order to make sure that references are all written and submitted in time. Be sure to ask them when the internal deadline is.



Dental Universities 

1. Dental universities: Where can I study? 

There are sixteen dental schools in the UK, of which two are graduate entry. There are also two postgraduate-entry dental institutes.

Dental School

Website

Contact Details

Belfast

Tel: 02890 972215

Birmingham

Tel: 0121 466 5472 Email

Bristol

Tel: 0117 394 1649 Email

Cardiff

Tel: 029 2074 2470 Email

Dundee

Tel: 01382 381 600 Email

Glasgow

Tel: 0141 211 9703 Email

Leeds

Liverpool

Tel: 0151 794 2000

London - King’s College

Tel: 020 7118 1164

London - Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry

Tel: 020 7882 2240 / 2243 Fax: 020 7882 7206 Email

Manchester

Tel: 0161 306 0211 Email

Newcastle

Tel: 0191 208 8245

Plymouth

Tel: 01752 600600

Sheffield

Tel: 0114 215 9304

Aberdeen

Tel: 01224 551 901 Email

Preston (University of Central Lancashire)

Tel: 01772 892 400

UCL Eastman Dental Institute

Tel: 020 3456 1092

Edinburgh Dental Institute

Tel: 0131 536 3979

2. Best dental schools

Medical School

Complete University Guide Ranking

Guardian Ranking

University List Ranking

University of Glasgow

1

4

2

University of Dundee

2

3

3

Queen Mary University of London

3

6

1

University of Newcastle

4

8

4

University of Bristol

6

12

5

3. Studying dentistry at Cambridge or Oxford 

Neither Cambridge nor Oxford run dentistry, but they do run dental-related postgraduate courses which you could apply to after graduating from dental school.

4. Is there an option to study dentistry part-time?

There are no universities in the UK that currently offer part-time dentistry. However, you can study postgraduate dentistry courses part-time. 

5. Can I study dentistry online?

Dentistry requires a lot of patient contact. You’ll also have to attend placements at hospitals and other dental settings in order to learn all the skills you need to be a safe and competent dentist. 

This means that it’s not possible to study all of dentistry online. Although the pandemic has brought a temporary change to teaching styles, it’s likely that the majority of your dentistry course will take place in a physical setting


Other Ways of Getting into Dental School

1. How to get into dentistry with low grades

You can get in with slightly lower grades if you get a contextual offer. Another option is to apply for a dental- or science-related course and then apply as a graduate student, as graduate-entry courses tend to require lower A-Level grades than courses for direct-entry school leavers.

2. Dentistry clearing

Clearing is a way for universities to fill places on their courses after results day. If you didn’t get an offer or you didn’t quite get the grades, this can be a good option for you. 

With dentistry being a competitive course, there will be very few universities with spaces left to fill. It’s important that you act quickly. If you feel that you may not achieve the grades you need, then have your UCAS Personal ID, your Clearing Number, personal statement, and GCSE grades written down or to hand.

On results day, you need to use the UCAS search tool to find courses with spaces still available. Call the universities and see if they’ll accept you. Make sure your phone is charged, as you could be spending a while on the phone.


3. Dental schools with lower grade requirements

University of Bristol

Although a typical offer is AAA, you can get an offer of AAC if you meet at least one of their contextual offer criteria, which include:

  • Attending an aspiring state school or college
  • Living in an area with low progression to higher education
  • Completing a University of Bristol Outreach programme
  • Spending time in care
  • Attending a Venturers Trust secondary school

University of Manchester

You can also get a contextual offer of AAB if any of the following apply:

  • You live in a disadvantaged area or an area with low progression into university
  • The school or college where you took/are taking your GCSEs/A-level equivalent has performed below the national average over multiple years
  • You have been in care for 3 or more months

University of Leeds

Taking part in Access to Leeds will make you eligible for a lower offer of ABB. You can find all the criteria and requirements to apply for Access to Leeds here.

University of Plymouth

By taking part in the PARTNERS programme, you’ll be able to have an offer of BBB. There are certain criteria you have to meet to be eligible for the programme.

University of Sheffield

You can receive an Access Sheffield offer of AAB if you meet certain criteria and take part in certain programmes.

4. Dentistry courses with a foundation year

Dentistry courses with a foundation year are for students who achieved high grades at A-Level but took non-science subjects. The course would be 6 years long as a result of the extra year at the start of the course, which helps to consolidate your scientific understanding.

Currently, there are two universities offering dentistry with a foundation year:

The standard offer is AAA, but if you have a contextual offer, it is AAB.

The typical offer is AAA, but you can only apply for this course if you have no science subjects or a maximum of one science subject at A-Level.

5. Gateway to dentistry courses in the UK 

A Gateway to Dentistry course is an alternative route into dentistry. 

These are 6-year courses designed for students who have great academic potential but have been held back due to personal circumstances as a result of socioeconomic or educational barriers. 

There are currently two universities offering Gateway to Dentistry courses:

BBC is the minimum requirement, which is far lower than most other dentistry courses. To be eligible you must have attended a secondary school or college from this list. Another way you’re eligible is if you’ve been in care for 3 or more months. Your teacher would have to confirm this in their reference and you would also need to submit additional proof. Your selection for interview would be based solely on your UCAT ranking and your academic performance would not be considered unless yours is a borderline case.

At King’s, the offer is AAA. This is high, but it’s lower than their typical offer for dentistry, which is A*AA. To be eligible you must have been in non-selective state education within greater London since the age of 11.

6. Graduate-Entry Dentistry in the UK

If you want to study medicine as a graduate there are three main pathways:

a) 3-year graduate-entry pathway

Currently, there is only one university offering this course, and that is King’s. This is only open to graduates with a degree in medicine. You need to have registered with the General Medical Council and have completed Foundation Years 1 and 2. You also need to have an interest in pursuing oral and maxillofacial surgery or oral medicine/pathology.

b) 4-year graduate-entry pathway

There are three universities that offer 4-year courses:

To apply you need to have a 1st or 2:1 degree in a medical or health-related course. If you’re not sure whether your degree would be accepted, email dentistry@abdn.ac.uk for advice. If you have a 2:2 degree and another qualification like an MSc, your chances of acceptance won’t improve due to the high number of candidates with 2:1 degrees that apply.

You need to have a 2:1 degree in the biomedical discipline and also three A-Levels at C or above. At least one needs to be from Biology or Physics, and at least one more needs to be from Chemistry or Mathematics.

You’ll need either a 2:1 degree in a biosciences subject or a 2:2 degree and another postgraduate qualification (with at least a merit) in a biosciences subject. 

c) 5-year standard-entry course that accept graduates

You’ll be classified as a non-direct school leaver. This means that your academic performance won’t be considered. Your invitation to interview will be based only on your GAMSAT score. The cutoff varies from year to year, but for 2021, it was 54 in Section 1, 57 in Section 2, and 49 in Section 3, and the overall score was 56.

Graduates from the University of Plymouth’s BSc (Hons) in Dental Therapy and Hygiene (DTH) who achieve a distinction can apply to join Year 2 of the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) degree. 

This entry route is valid for two years after BSc completion, and all applications must be submitted through UCAS between 1 September and 15 October. 

All eligible applicants will be subject to the standard selection interview for the BDS course and all offers will be conditional. For DTH graduates who do not achieve a distinction, the current process will remain, meaning you will have to sit the GAMSAT exam to apply to join Year 1 of the BDS course.

You can apply to dentistry as a graduate. Your degree can fall into three main categories. 

If your degree is a bioscience degree with significant amounts of biology and chemistry, then there are no further A or AS level requirements.

If your science degree lacks either biology or chemistry, then you need to have at least a C at AS or A level in either biology or chemistry (depending on which one is missing from your degree). 

For non-science degrees, you need to have at least a B at AS or A-Level and a B in at least one other science. 

You need to have a 2:1 degree in any subject. If your degree is not classified, then you need to have achieved a grade of 70% or above. You need to have achieved ABB or above in a minimum of three A Levels including Chemistry and Biology. You’ll also need 7 GCSEs at grade B/6 or above including Maths, English Language and a science subject.

You’ll need either a 2:1 degree in a biosciences subject or a 2:2 degree and another postgraduate qualification (with at least a merit) in a biosciences subject. 

You need to have at least a 2:1 honours degree, preferably in a life science subject. This degree needs to be the first degree you’ve achieved.

You need to have a 2:1 degree and you need a BBB at A-level in chemistry and one in biology, physics or mathematics.

You’ll need to have achieved a 2:1 in a health-science related degree, or if your degree is unclassified, an overall average of 65%. You also need a minimum of ABB in Chemistry and Biology and one other subject.

You’ll need a minimum of a 2:1 in your first degree.

This is a 6-year course for people who achieved AAA with either no science subject or a maximum of one. Graduates are also eligible to apply for this course.

You need to have a 2:1 honours degree or above in a relevant subject, and you need to show that you have achieved the same in Chemistry and Biology (Grade A, A-Level/Higher) and Maths or Physics (Grade B, GCSE/Higher) within the last 6 years. Even if you have an additional qualification, a 2:2 degree won’t be accepted.

You’ll need to have a 2:1 degree, and biology and chemistry needs to form a significant part of your degree.

At Queen’s your full academic background is taken into consideration. You need to have achieved BBB in your A-Levels before starting your undergraduate degree or BBC in your A-Levels if you took them after completing your degree. You need at least a 2:1 degree in your first degree. You also need A-Level Biology and Chemistry and at least a grade C/4 in GCSE Maths. If you’re from a non-science background but still fulfill the minimum conditions in your original choice of A-Levels, you will still be considered if you take the proper science qualifications.

You need a minimum of a 2:1 degree and a minimum of BBB achieved in your first sitting of A-Levels. You need to have A-Levels in Biology and Chemistry if you’re applying with a non-science degree.

You need to have a minimum of a 2:1 degree in a relevant science or healthcare subject and GCSE maths at grade 4/C or above.

You need a 2:1 degree in a core science subject and a minimum of 6 grade A/7 at GCSE including Maths, English Language and Science.

7. Dentistry scholarships in the UK

There are a lot of databases where you can search for scholarships or bursaries. Here you can find some examples of databases where you can search for scholarships.

Most universities will also offer various scholarships and bursaries, so be sure to check the sites of the universities you apply to.

8. Can I study dentistry abroad in English?

Several Eastern European countries, including Georgia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Armenia, and Romania, offer dental courses for foreigners. Studying abroad is becoming more and more popular, as the costs of living are lower and the competition less intense in these countries than in the UK. Tuition, too, is usually lower and starts from as little as £3,000 per year.

Most of the above courses are taught in English and degrees from these countries are recognised internationally. Most of these countries also offer graduate-entry dentistry courses. 

It’s likely that you’ll have to take a university-specific admissions test as part of their selection process, as there is no internationally accepted test. 

Another option is to study dentistry in Australia. As the main language in Australia is English, you’ll have less trouble interacting with locals and settling in. However, tuition fees can be very expensive for international students: they range anywhere from £38,000 to £76,000 a year. These figures don’t even include accommodation or food, which means it’s likely it will cost you a lot more studying in Australia than studying in the UK.


After Graduation

What happens after graduating?

After graduating from dental school you can take two routes. 

  1. Private dentistry. You work in private clinics and do courses to build your skills and expertise. 
  2. The NHS. To work for the NHS, you need to undertake at least one year of dental foundation training. 

If you want to specialise in a particular area of dentistry, you need to do dental core training. This can last from 1-3 years, after which you can apply for specialist training. 

Specialist training is competitive, and dentists may have to apply 2 or 3 times before they’re successful. Training lasts 3-5 years depending on the speciality. At the end of the training, you need to take a membership exit exam. Upon passing the exam, you become a specialist.


Summary

  • Dentistry is an exciting and fulfilling career and there are many possible routes to get in
  • You’ll need to take the UCAT (or the BMAT for Leeds Dental School)
  • The UCAS deadline is 15 October
  • You’ll typically need AAA and A-Levels in biology and chemistry, but there are exceptions to this rule

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