The Ultimate Guide to Studying Dentistry in the UK

Admissions

5/1/2024

Table of contents

Introduction to dentistry

Dentistry admissions

Dental universities

Other ways of getting into dental school

After graduation

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 dentistry is a genuinely core service and makes a real difference to people’s lives. Read on for a deep dive into dentistry admissions.

An overview of a career in dentistry in the UK, including study duration, grade requirements, cost and potential earnings.

Introduction to dentistry

1. Reasons to study dentistry 

Pros of studying dentistry in the UK
Cons of studying dentistry in the UK
Read about Samar’s journey into dentistry and her pros and cons

2. Is getting into dentistry competitive?

Dentistry is competitive as 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?

Differences between a career in medicine and dentistry in the UK
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 five years, but other routes can take six 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 2021–22, the average cost for accommodation was around £166 a week (this will be higher in areas like London), so in total accommodation could cost you around £41,500 for five years. 

Ultimately, studying dentistry can cost you over £87,750. 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 £25,000 a year, which comes to a gross of £2,083 a month, or £480 a week (figures taken from UCAS, 2023). After 40 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 okay. 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:

Dental Schools Council's core values for dentistry

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

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 8 (A*) or above in GCSE Biology and Chemistry and 7 (A) or above for Maths and English. Conversely, the University of Leeds requires 6 GCSEs at 6 (B) or above 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 sit the UCAT exam.

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 a UCAT Online Course and are the world’s most established UCAT provider.

This test is designed to be challenging and can have a significant effect on your application, so make sure you 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.

Multiple mini-interviews (MMI)

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

Take a deep dive into dental interviews

5. What kind of work experience do I need?

Ideally, you should aim to get two 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 our Dentistry Personal Statement Guide for more advice on how to ace your personal statement, or check out our Personal Statement Course with in-depth tutorials, guidance from admissions experts, and over 100 personal statement examples, for just £20.

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 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 applications is 16 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. Where can I study? 

There are 16 dental schools in the UK that offer undergraduate or graduate entry into dentistry – please refer to the table below for more information:

Dental School

Entry Pathway(s)

Contact Details

Undergraduate entry, graduate entry

Undergraduate entry

Undergraduate entry

Undergraduate entry

Graduate entry

01772 892400

Undergraduate entry

01382 381 600 / DentalAdmin@dundee.ac.uk

Undergraduate entry

Undergraduate entry, graduate entry

020 7118 1164

Undergraduate entry

0113 343 9922 / denadmissions@leeds.ac.uk

Undergraduate entry

0151 795 1700 / dentenq@liverpool.ac.uk

Undergraduate entry

Undergraduate entry

0191 208 8347 / Dental.Admissions@ncl.ac.uk

Undergraduate entry

Undergraduate entry

02890 972215

Undergraduate entry

2. Best dental schools

Dental School

Complete University Guide Ranking (2024)

Guardian Ranking (2024)

University of Dundee

1

3

University of Glasgow

2

4

University of Bristol

4

5

Queen's University Belfast

5

2

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

UCAS clearing is a way for universities to fill places on their courses after results day. If you didn’t get an offer or 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, 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

Nowadays, many universities provide contextual offers and widening participation programmes to help students from underrepresented groups to attend university. Make sure to check the university website for relevant information.

Below are some examples of dental schools with lower grade requirements:

University of Bristol

Although a typical offer is AAA, you can get an offer of ABB 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
  • You receive or have received free school meals

University of Leeds

Taking part in Access to Leeds will make you eligible for a lower offer of ABB. Check out the criteria and requirements to apply for Access to Leeds.

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 more than 3 months
  • You have refugee status

Newcastle University

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 Plymouth

For applicants from widening access backgrounds, the university will accept AAB, but you'll need to meet a minimum of three widening access indicators as stated on their website to be considered.

University of Sheffield

You can receive an Access+ offer of AAB if you meet certain criteria.

4. Dentistry courses with a preliminary year

Dentistry courses with a preliminary or foundation year are for students who achieved high grades at A-level but took non-science subjects. The course will be six years long as a result of this extra year, which helps to consolidate your scientific understanding.

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

University of Leeds

The standard offer is ABB, but if you qualify for the Access to Leeds scheme, the entry requirements are up to two grades lower than the standard offer.

University of Manchester

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

5. Gateway to dentistry courses in the UK 

A gateway to dentistry course is an alternative route into dentistry. These courses are 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.

Currently, there are four universities offering gateway to dentistry courses:

University of Bristol

The academic requirement to enter the 6-year Gateway to Dentistry BDS course is BBC, with a B in Biology or Chemistry. To be eligible, you cannot be predicted or achieve AAB or above, and must meet the widening participation criteria.

King’s College London

The academic requirement to enter the 5-year Enhanced Support Dentistry Programme BDS is AAB, including an A in Biology or Chemistry, and B in one of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths or Psychology. To be eligible, you must have attended only non-selective state schools within Greater London since age 11.

University of Leeds

The academic requirement to enter the 6-year Interdisciplinary Science with Foundation Year BSc is CDD or above, excluding Critical Thinking and General Studies. If you take a Science A-level, you'll be required to achieve a pass in the practical element. To be eligible, you must meet specific widening participation criteria.

University of Liverpool

The 1-year Foundation to Human and Animal Health Professions course is for mature UK students who have typically been out of formal education for a while, or taken non-traditional qualifications (A-level students or school leavers will not be accepted). You'll need 5 GCSEs at grade 6 (B) which include Mathematics, English Language and either Biology or Chemistry, Core and additional Science or Dual Science Award.

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, King's College London is the only university offering this course, which is only open to graduates with a degree in medicine. You need to have registered with the General Medical Council and completed Foundation Years 1 and 2. You should also have an interest in pursuing oral and maxillofacial surgery or oral medicine/pathology.

b) 4-year graduate entry pathway

Currently, there are four universities that offer 4-year courses:

University of Aberdeen

To apply you need to have a 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 chance of acceptance won’t improve due to the high number of candidates with 2:1 degrees that apply.

University of Central Lancashire 

You need to have a 2:1 degree in the biomedical discipline. You'll also need three A-levels at C or above with at least two from Biology, Physics, Chemistry or Mathematics.

King’s College London

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

University of Birmingham 

You need 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.

University of Bristol

You need a 2:1 degree and BBB at A-level including Chemistry and one of Biology, Physics, Mathematics or Further Mathematics.

Cardiff University

You need a 2.1 degree. If you degree contains an appropriate amount of Biology and/or Chemistry, you must meet Level 2 requirements (GCSE or equivalent) and achieve BBB at A-level including Biology and Chemistry.

If your degree doesn't contain an appropriate amount of Biology and/or Chemistry,  you must meet Level 2 requirements (GCSE or equivalent) and achieve AAB at A-level, including AA in Biology and Chemistry.

University of Dundee

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

University of Glasgow

You need a 2:1  degree in a relevant subject, and will need to show that you've achieved the same in Chemistry and Biology (A at A-level) and Maths or Physics (6/B at GCSE) within the last six years.

King’s College London

You need a 2:1 degree in any subject, with B at A-level in Biology or Chemistry and B in A-level in one of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics or Psychology. A 2:2 is acceptable combined with a Master's degree (with at least a merit), as long as the previously stated A-level grades are achieved.

If you have a sufficient quantity of Biology or Chemistry as part of your degree, you may not need the A-level in this subject.

University of Leeds

You need a 2:1 degree in a relevant science or healthcare subject and GCSE Maths at 4 (C).

University of Liverpool

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

University of Manchester

You need a 2:1 degree and BBB at A-level. If you’re applying with a non-science degree, your A-levels should include relevant subjects such as most biomedical and life sciences disciplines.

Newcastle University

You need a 2.1 in a dental therapy degree. If your degree doesn't include a significant amount of Chemistry and Biology, Level 3 qualifications in Chemistry and Biology would also be needed.

University of Plymouth

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 2023, it was 50 in Section 1, 50 in Section 2, and 51 in Section 3, and the overall score was 55.

Graduates from the University of Plymouth School of Biomedical Science programme who achieve or are predicted a 1st class degree can apply for entry onto stage one of the BDS programme. This route is valid for two years after graduation and all applications must be made via UCAS. You must successfully complete an interview prior to being offered a place.

Queen Mary University of London

You need a 2:1 degree in any subject (achieved or predicted) with supporting science qualifications where necessary.

Queens University Belfast

You need a 2:1 degree in a science-based subject, plus BBB at A-level. If you achieve a 1st class degree, then BBC at A-level is acceptable.

University of Sheffield

You need a 2:1 in a science or related degree.

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 £3000 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 two or three 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
  • The UCAS deadline is 16 October
  • You’ll typically need AAA and A-levels in Biology and Chemistry, but there are exceptions to this rule

Need further help?

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