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What to expect when studying a dentistry degree

We explore what it takes to become a dentist including the entry requirements for a degree, the curriculum you'll study, the costs and how long it takes to qualify.

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Dentistry attracts many international students to universities around the world. It’s not hard to see why. This specialised healthcare field offers very good employment prospects with enviable starting salaries. Along with job security comes the various areas of specialisation that can be pursued when you study dentistry. Allied to this is the service-oriented nature of the field, with the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of patients.  If this sounds appealing, let’s explore what’s involved in studying dentistry. This includes everything from entry requirements and curriculum, to what you can expect to pay and how to specialise.



What are the entry requirements for a degree in dentistry?


First and foremost, remember that the entry requirements will differ between countries and institutions. Make sure you check with your prospective institution/s prior to applying. Despite the differences if you’ve been considering applying to study dentistry there are a few pre-requisite entry requirements you’ll need to have:


  • A high-quality academic record (minimum of a B grade)
  • Science-based subjects (chemistry, physics, biology) and mathematics
  • English language proficiency (IELTS score of 6.5 to 7.0, no band lower than 6.0)
  • Transferable academic qualifications may be required


With dentistry courses being quite competitive it’s always best to get your application in as early as possible and include all of the necessary information.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to a university to get advice and more information. There is the possibility that an interview and an aptitude test may form part of the application process, so don’t be caught off guard.


Remember that you may have the option of taking a pre-sessional English course if you don’t quite meet the English language entry requirements.



How long will it take me to qualify as a dentist?


The length of your degree will depend on the country in which you are studying and if you choose to specialise. For example, if you have chosen to study in the UK, your undergraduate degree will usually take five years to complete with an additional two years of postgraduate practical training required, before you are certified to practice. Your dental qualification must also be accredited by the General Dental Council.


If you’ve made the decision to study in the U.S. or Canada in order to qualify to study dentistry you will need to have completed a four-year bachelor’s qualification in a related field (BSc) prior to admission to a dental school. There is also the possibility of taking some pre-dental courses in your undergraduate qualification.


Once you have applied for a professional dental degree and been accepted, it will be four years of study before you are able to qualify. If you’re keen to specialise, for example in orthodontics, you can expect a minimum of two to three years of additional study.


It’s important to note that you will also need to pass a professional qualification examination from the American Dental Association or the National Dental Examining Board of Canada so you can receive a license to practice.


Some of the top dental schools in the UK include:



How much does it usually cost to study?


Fees will inevitably differ between countries and institutions. There is the added component of factoring in living and accommodation costs when calculating how much money you will need. In a number of countries, such as the UK and the USA, you will be required to produce evidence of financial stability. This is to show that you have the requisite funds to support yourself during the course of your studies. We’ve looked into the average tuition fees for dentistry in popular destinations:


  • UK – between GBP 25,000 and 45,000 per year
  • USA – between USD 30,000 and USD 90,000 per year
  • Canada – between USD 40,000 and USD 90,000 per year
  • Australia – between AUD 70,000 and AUD 100,000 per year


You should definitely look into what kind of financial aid and scholarships may be on offer from various institutions and organisations. In fact, we’ve got some top tips on how to ace your scholarship application.


What will I study for a dental degree?


Dentistry is known to be a challenging qualification requiring the development and demonstration of expert knowledge, from terminology to procedures.  The curriculum that you will follow at dental school will not be identical for all institutions, but there are some key commonalities.


The curriculum is generally divided into two distinct components. Firstly, you’ll get to grips with the fundamentals and scientific foundations of dentistry. This usually takes up the first two years of your course. You’ll focus on:


  • Dental and oral health
  • Clinical practice
  • Clinical skills
  • Dental disease
  • Treatment theory
  • Dental experience simulations
  • Social and environmental scope of practice
  • Interaction with industry experts


Once you have a solid base from which to work, years three, four and five see you move into more hands-on and practical learning. The focus shifts to the application of knowledge and skill in a professional setting. You will be involved in:


  • Patient demonstrations
  • Clinical procedures
  • Clinical activity
  • Patient treatment
  • Specialist care including orthodontics, maxillo-facial surgery and oral surgery


Having completed your degree and training, you may want to continue your dental studies at a postgraduate level in order to specialise in a particular area. Dental specialisations include:


  • Orthodontics – the correction and management of the growth of dental structures, notably teeth.
  • Periodontics – the treatment of diseases or issues affecting teeth and gums.
  • Oral / Maxillo-facial surgery – surgical intervention and management of issues, injuries, defects related to the mouth, jaw and teeth.
  • Oral pathology – a focus on the diagnosis and understanding of oral diseases.
  • Paediatric dentistry – oral care and treatment of children.


There are a number of other specialisations as well and during the course of your studies, you may find particular areas that grab your interest. This is may happen when you start the more practical components of your degree and have the opportunity to treat patients.



Hopefully, you’ve got a better idea of what studying dentistry looks like and what you can expect. You may also find it useful to take a look at our guide on matching your personality to a study and career path, our exploration of professional degrees and preparing for your studies by finding out what careers services at universities offer. If you’re already sure you want to study dentistry, use our course matcher tool to find your ideal programme.




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