general dental practitioner (GDP)

Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Jobs forecast

This information is supplied by LMI For All, where data is currently available for Scotland.

What's it like?

You would help people keep their teeth and gums healthy and strong. You’d explain to patients how to care for their teeth and gums. You’d check their mouths and treat any problems.

You’d carry out delicate procedures using medical instruments. You’d need to deal with anxious patients and people who may be upset because they are in pain.

Many dentists work as general dental practitioners (GDPs) in the community, looking after private and NHS patients. As a GDP you’d be self-employed and run your own practice. You’d mange the business and lead your team to provide a good dental service to your patients.

You would carry out dental treatments such as:

  • Filling teeth
  • Extracting teeth
  • Fitting dentures and bridges
  • Whitening teeth

As part of treatments you’d also take X-rays and give local anaesthetics.

You’d refer patients to a dental hygienist or dental therapist for certain treatments. You’d also need to keep dental records for each patient.

There are other places you could work, such as:

  • For a community dental service, treating people with special needs, young children and the elderly.
  • In a hospital doing specialised dental work such as restorative dentistry, orthodontics and oral surgery.
  • In corporate practice providing general dental services for the employees of a large business.
  • For the armed forces treating services personnel, including in combat zones

In all these areas, you would use a range of dental and surgical techniques and instruments. In a hospital you would carry out some procedures in an operating theatre.

You could also work in dental public health. This is a relatively new and expanding field. You would assess the dental health needs of the regional population rather than treat individuals, and make sure that dental services meet those needs. You would work with other dentists, NHS professionals, government departments and related agencies.

You can see more about the salary for this role in the National Health Service on the pay for dentists page on the NHS Careers website.

Working conditions


Your hours of work will vary depending on the area you work in. Part-time hours are often possible. You will usually work between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday in general practice, the community dental service, dental public health, universities, the corporate sector. You may occasionally need to work in the evenings or at weekends, or as part of an out-of-hours rota. In a hospital setting, you will usually work slightly longer and more irregular hours, including night shifts.​​​​​​


UK employment status



Self employed

People behind the job

Meet real people who’ve done this job – hear their stories and the path they took to get there.

Here are some of the skills that people in this job would be most likely to have:

  • Communicating with people
  • Explaining things
  • Accuracy
  • Working with your hands
  • Budgeting
  • Planning and organising
  • Paying attention to detail

Build your skills

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.


You need an honours degree in dentistry (SCQF level 10)

To enter a dentistry degree (SCQF level 9/10) requires National 5 qualifications and a minimum of four Highers at B or above.  

If you do not have the necessary sciences, Dundee University runs a Predental year designed for very able applicants who have a predominantly non-science background (ie. have studied not more than one science at Higher or A-level).

Entry requirements are 5 Highers at AAAAB (first sitting) including not more than one science subject (SCQF level 10).  

A graduate dental surgery course is available at the University of Aberdeen for applicants with a first or second class medical science or health-related degree. 

Useful subjects

You'll need to achieve five Highers at AAAAB grades on your first sitting.  

They must include:

  • English
  • Maths or physics
  • At least one science subject, in particular biology, human biology and chemistry

You will also need

Before applying to dental school you must sit the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT).

You need to be approved for membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme run by Disclosure Scotland.

All potential dentistry students are required to undergo screening for blood borne viruses (Hepatitis B and C, and HIV).