Dentist job profile

What does a dentist do?

Dentists provide dental care to the public and can work privately or for the NHS, or both. You will typically be examining the dental and oral hygiene of your patients, educating them on how to look after their teeth and gums and carry out treatment for any issues that occur. The role of a dentist can vary depending on their place of work and position.

Duties of a dentist

Typical dentist duties and responsibilities include:

  • Educating patients on their oral hygiene and dental care
  • Examining patient's teeth and identifying or diagnosing any potential dental problems
  • Performing dental treatments such as fillings and teeth extractions
  • Teeth whitening
  • Using technical equipment such as X-ray machines to identify potential issues
  • Keeping records for each patient
  • Referring patients to a dental hygienist or dental therapist
  • Working with a practice receptionist and medical nurse
  • Overseeing budgets
  • Maintaining stocks of equipment.

    Dentist working environment and hours

    Dentists working hours and environment can vary depending on their working arrangements. In general practice you will usually work 9am to 5pm, but you could be required to work overtime and weekends. However, if you work as a general dental practitioner (GDP), you will be self-employed and can therefore choose your own working hours which could include evenings and weekends to be convenient to patients.

    If you are working in a hospital, your hours could be slightly longer, but will be a lot more regular than those of medical doctors.

    In all environments, you will have to wear a tunic, surgical gloves and safety glasses to help reduce the risk of infection to patients.

    Key skills to become a dentist


    You need to be an excellent communicator so you can explain any issues or possible procedures to patients.

    Interpersonal skills

    As this is a patient-facing role, you need to be able to talk to people of all ages and backgrounds. You will also need a sympathetic manner to deal with patients’ concerns.

    High concentration

    You will have to undertake a number of dental procedures which can take prolonged periods of time.


    You will often have to manage a team of other dentists and dental staff to successfully run a practice. Business skills are also required.

    Problem solving and initiative

    You will need to be able to identify any issues with patient’s teeth and then decide on the right course of action.

    Ability to use specialist equipment

    You will have to use a variety of dental tools and special machinery such as X-rays to identify and inspect any potential dental problems with your patients.

    Qualifications and training

    To become a dentist you will have to complete three steps.

    Firstly you will have to complete a five year degree in dentistry, approved by the General Dental Council (GDC).

    To get on to the degree course you will need to either have high A Level grades (such as AAA), with chemistry and biology being required subjects, or you will need an undergraduate degree (2:1 or higher) in biology, chemistry or a biomedical subject. If you have a required undergraduate degree you could apply for a four-year dental degree course.

    To be accepted on to the highly competitive dental courses, you will need to take the UK Clinical Aptitude Test or the Biomedical Admissions Test when you apply.

    Secondly, you will need to register with the GDC, who regulates dental professionals in the UK.

    Finally, once you finish your degree, you will need to complete up to two years of postgraduate dental training, under the supervision of a dental practice.

    Bellerbys College provides international students with all the support they will need to access an undergraduate dentistry degree in the UK. Programmes leading to undergraduate study include:

    Dentist career path

    In the UK, when a dentist becomes experienced in general practice, they could go on to set up their own dental practice - giving extra responsibility for the management of staff, as well as overseeing budgets and equipment stock.

    If you are working in a hospital, you will follow a structured career pathway that will lead to senior posts after additional training and further qualifications. You could also work and train in specialised roles in hospitals, such as restorative dentistry, orthodontics or oral surgery.

    Over time and with further experience, you could go on to lead a team or manage a department. Alternatively, you can progress to teaching and training dental students.

    There are also opportunities to work as a dentist in the armed forces.


    How much do dentists make a year?

    A dentist’s salary depends on their experience and whether they are self-employed or not.

    A trainee and starter dentist will earn between £36,000 and £45,750 working for the NHS, while more experienced dentists can earn between £38,500 and £82,500 as a NHS salaried dentist. This figure will raise for highly experienced NHS consultants, who can expect to earn up to £102,500.

    If you are self-employed, your earning potential will be between £50,000 and £100,000.

    (Guideline salary information from National Careers Service).

    Dentist degree pathways for international students

    How to become a dentist

    The inside of a dentist surgery

    Find out more about how to become a dentist, including the exact qualifications you need to practice dentistry in the United Kingdom.