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Dentists operating on a patient in surgery

Dentists diagnose and treat problems affecting the mouth and teeth. They work to prevent oral disease, promote oral health and restore tooth function in community, practice or hospital settings.

From fillings and cosmetic crowns to saving or replacing teeth (and smiles) after traumatic injury, life as a dentist combines the intellectual challenge of diagnostics and the technical challenges of surgery.

Dentistry is a caring profession, and in this fast-paced role, you will often meet and help patients who are distressed or are suffering with other illnesses or injuries, such as stroke or cancer patients. 


After studying science subjects at school, including Biology and Chemistry, you should study for a Dentistry BDS. Dentistry is a caring profession and you may have to reassure nervous patients or treat small children, so the ability to empathise and build rapport, a calm, friendly manner and good communication skills are essential.

You should enjoy working as part of a team; as a dentist you will work with other dentists, dental nurses, technologists, dental hygienists and dental therapists.

Other important skills include:

  • good manual dexterity
  • acute eye for attention to detail and colour vision
  • ability to offer advice and educate others
  • ability handle stress and pressure very well
  • good organisational and leadership skills. 

Career opportunities

The dental profession offers interesting and varied career options – after your five year undergraduate degree which includes clinical training and patient treatment, you could choose a career in:

  • General practice: graduates undertake Dental Foundation Training working under supervision with day-release lectures. They then can work as an associate in a practice, and later start their own practice.
  • Industrial companies, in Government service and in the Armed Forces where cadetships leading to commissions are available.
  • NHS services: where the emphasis is often on the prevention of dental problems in the community and looking after priority groups – people with special needs, older people, pregnant women and young children.
  • A hospital specialty or a practice-based specialty, undertaking a master’s degree and further training, leading to becoming a consultant and/or clinical teacher.
  • Clinical academia and research, which will initially require studying for a PhD.

Top tip

Visit the open day of a university that offers Dentistry and attend the subject talk. This will give you insight into the BDS programme and the chance to hear from current students.

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