To practice as a dentist in the UK, you must be registered with the General Dental Council (GDC). You will also need to study an approved pre-registration programme, which can take 5 years.
In Scotland, NHS Education for Scotland (NES) is involved in the education and training of dentists throughout their career. Dental education is made up of three stages.
There are 3 universities in Scotland where you can study dentistry. The entry requirements for each dental school can vary. The specific academic entry requirements for each dental school, including other accepted academic qualifications, can be found on the following websites:
Fitness to practice
Dental schools will expect you to meet the requirements of the General Dental Council (GDC) for fitness to practice. You will also be required to undertake occupational health screening for blood borne viral infections before starting the course.
Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme
You will require a satisfactory (PVG) check to show that you are suitable to train or work as a dentist. This scheme is managed by Disclosure Scotland.
Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT)
When you apply for a degree in dentistry, you may also be asked to take the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT). Universities use this test to help select students with the personal qualities and reasoning and decision making skills needed for this career. Your university will tell you if you need to take the test.
Increasingly, work experience plays an important part when applying for dentistry programmes. It will help you decide if a career as a dentist is for you, as well as confirming your interest and suitability for the course.
Previous experience of working in dental care is essential. This can be either or paid or voluntary work in a general dental practice, hospital or other healthcare setting. You could also consider other roles in health and social care.
You are advised to contact NHSScotland boards or general dental practices in your area to discuss opportunities for work experience. Competition is extremely high, so applying early, being proactive and showing initiative is the key to securing a work experience placement.
For information about other dental schools in the UK, including entry requirements, please visit the UCAS website.
How to apply
Specific entry requirements for dentistry, including other accepted qualifications, are provided on each university’s website. To apply for this programme, you must use the UCAS application process. You can visit the GDC website for a full list of approved educational institutions and programmes across the UK.
NES distributes funds to all the NHSScotland boards providing undergraduate training in dental hospitals and outreach centres.
Once you’ve passed your final exams and gained your BDS degree, the next step is to apply for foundation training.
Vocational (foundation) training
Recent graduates from UK dental schools must complete a foundation training programme, which lasts one year. After successfully completing the course, they are eligible to hold a Health Board list number, which allows dentists to work as associates or principals in NHS general dental practice.
NES co-ordinates foundation training and provides funding for trainees. Find out more on the NES website.
Core and Specialty training
Dental Core Training (DCT) is a flexible training programme of between one and three years following on from foundation training. Recruitment to DCT posts in Scotland normally takes place once a year in April/May.
In each six months of training, core trainees are expected to complete:
- one round of 20 patient assessment questionnaires (PAQs)
- 20 workplace-based assessments
- attendance at the full education programme
- two meetings with Educational Supervisor
Specialty Training can take three to five years, depending on the specialty. Scotland currently offers programmes in:
- dental and maxillofacial radiology
- dental public health
- oral medicine
- oral surgery
- paediatric dentistry
- restorative dentistry
- special care dentistry
NES controls the number of training places available in Scotland, co-ordinates this training and funds the salaries of the trainees.