Dentists provide advice and assistance on maintaining good oral health. They are responsible for the diagnosis and surgical treatment of dental and oral disease, including treatment planning. This can include the restoration and/or the replacement of teeth.

Most Dentists provide routine dental care in general dental practices throughout Scotland. Some Dentists undergo further training in specific fields, to allow them to provide specialist services, such as orthodontics.

Dentist in the NHS in Scotland

As a Dentist in NHSScotland, you could specialise in different areas of dentistry, including:

  • General Dental Service (GDS), where you would provide the full range of NHS treatment to patients registered at your practice. Independent Dentists provide GDS under arrangement with territorial NHSScotland boards. GDS is usually the first point of contact for NHS dental treatment for most people
  • Public Dental Service, where you work in patients' homes, care homes and community clinics to treat patients who are unable to attend a general practice
  • dental public health, where you would carry out non-clinical work, assessing the dental health needs of the local and national population
  • Hospital Dental Service, where you may deal with complex or difficult cases

Working as a Dentist, your main responsibilities will include:

  • carrying out oral examinations
  • carrying out clinical treatments, such as fillings or extractions under local anaesthetic
  • educating patients on oral healthcare and dental hygiene
  • diagnosing dental conditions
  • restoring teeth affected by decay and treating gum disease
  • assessing treatment options and agreeing treatment plans with patients
  • maintaining dental records of patients
  • recruiting, training and managing staff
  • overseeing budgets and maintaining stocks of equipment
  • referring patients to other Dental Care Professionals for certain treatments.

To work as a registered Dentist, useful skills will include:

  • technical and practical dental skills
  • patience, determination and a positive attitude
  • excellent attention to detail
  • strong communication skills
  • teamworking skills
  • committed to the wellbeing of patients
  • professional with an excellent work ethic
  • IT skills

Useful abilities include:

  • the ability to interpret and understand technical instructions
  • artistic abilities
  • the ability to concentrate for long periods
  • the ability to build relationships with patients and colleagues
  • the ability to explain treatments to patients

To practise 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.

Undergraduate Training

The qualification for Dentists is a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS). It takes five years as an undergraduate and one year as a vocational Dental Practitioner. The course is delivered by NHS Education for Scotland.

There are three universities in Scotland where you can study dentistry. The specific academic entry requirements for each dental school, including other accepted academic qualifications, can be found on the following websites:

For information about other dental schools in the UK, including entry requirements, please visit the UCAS website.

Fitness to Practise

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.

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.

Work experience

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 or another 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.

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.

NHS Education for Scotland (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 every 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
  • endodontics
  • oral medicine
  • oral surgery
  • orthodontics
  • 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.

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.

Once qualified you must register with the General Dental Council (GDC).

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

During your career you would be expected to undertake CPD activities in order to:

  • keep your knowledge up to date and relevant to practice
  • maintain your registration with the GDC by ensuring your professional performance is up to standard
  • ensure your behaviour meets the ‘Standards for the Dental Team’ guidance set out by the GDC 

GDC currently requires dentists to complete 250 hours of CPD activities every five years to maintain their registration. This must include:

  • medical emergencies (at least 10 hours)
  • radiology and radiation protection (at least 5 hours)
  • disinfection and decontamination (at least 5 hours)

Other recommended areas include legal and ethical issues, complaint handling and oral cancer early detection.

Find out more information from this professional body:

General Dental Council (GDC)

The GDC is a UK-wide regulatory body responsible for setting and maintaining standards for Dentists and Dental Care Professionals. It maintains a public register of qualified professionals and works to improve industry standards and education. Visit the GDC website to find out more.