Dentists diagnose and treat teeth and mouth problems, and work to prevent dental disease and promote oral health.

Annual Salary

£36,000 to £102,500

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours

35 to 40

What's it all about?

Most dentists are self-employed and work as general dental practitioners (GDPs) providing dental care to the public. You could do this work privately or for the NHS, or both.

You'll keep records for each patient. You'll tell them how to care for their teeth and provide treatment for any problems that occur. Your services might include:

  • dental treatments like fillings, extractions and fitting dentures and bridges
  • teeth whitening
  • taking X-rays and giving local anaesthetics
  • referring patients to a dental hygienist or dental therapist

If you're running your own practice, you'll be responsible for the day-to-day management of the business and dental team.

As well as general dental practice, you could also work in:

  • the community dental service (CDS) – providing treatment to people with special needs, young children and the elderly
  • hospitals – carrying out specialised dental work, such as restorative dentistry, orthodontics and oral surgery
  • dental public health - improving the dental health of your local area, rather than treating individuals
  • the armed forces – providing dental treatment for services personnel, including those in combat zones

You'll use a range of dental and surgical techniques and instruments. In a hospital you'll carry out some procedures in an operating theatre.

You'll work with other dentists, NHS professionals, government departments and related agencies.


You'll need to complete a 5-year degree in dentistry approved by the General Dental Council, followed by 1 to 2 years of postgraduate dental training.

When you apply for a dentistry course, you could be asked to take the University Clinical Aptitude Test or BioMedical Admissions Test. They test the skills you'll need on the course, like critical thinking, problem solving, data analysis, communication and scientific knowledge.

You may be able to apply for a 4-year dental degree course if you've already got at least an upper second class degree in biology, chemistry or a biomedical subject.

There's a lot of competition for places at dental schools.

You'll usually need:

  • 3 A levels, usually at grades AAA to ABB, including chemistry and biology

When you apply you'll take the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) to test your reasoning and decision-making skills.

You may be able to get NHS funding to pay for your course fees and help with your living expenses.

The British Dental Association (BDA) and the General Dental Council have information on dental training.

Health Careers has information on becoming a dentist.

£36,000 to £102,500

Starter salary: £36,000 and £45,750 (NHS dental trainee)

Experienced salary: £38,500 and £82,500 (NHS salaried dentist)

If you're self-employed, you could earn between £50,000 and £110,000.

Your salary will depend on your area of dentistry.

These figures are a guide.

35 to 40

In general practice you'll usually work between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. You'll occasionally work in the evenings or at weekends, or on an out-of-hours rota.

In a hospital, you'll usually work slightly longer and more irregular hours including night shifts.

You’ll usually need to wear a tunic, surgical gloves and safety glasses to reduce the risk of infection.

As a dentist in general practice you could go on to become a partner in the practice or set up your own practice.

If you’re working in the hospital dental service, you’ll be able to follow the same career structure and training pathway as a hospital doctor.

As a consultant, you'll often find work opportunities in the private sector.

With experience, you could lead a team, or manage a unit or department.

You could also progress to teaching and training students, trainee dentists and other healthcare professionals.


You can find out more about becoming a dentist from the British Dental Association and Health Careers.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • excellent communication skills
  • the ability to carry out delicate work with medical instruments
  • the ability to concentrate for long periods
  • leadership skills for managing the dental team
  • business and management skills for running a dental practice
  • physical skills like movement, coordination, dexterity and grace
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