general dental practitioner (GDP) orthodontist

Career outlook for dentist

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

Dentists help people keep their teeth and gums healthy and strong. You’d check patients' mouths and treat any problems and explain how they can care for their teeth and gums.

You’d carry out delicate procedures using medical instruments. Patients might be anxious or upset about their treatment, being able to reassure and relax them is important.

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'd carry out dental treatments such as:

  • filling teeth
  • extracting teeth
  • fitting dentures and bridge
  • 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.

Some dentists practices offer facial aesthetics work, also known as anti-wrinkle treatments. These are non surgical cosmetic treatments, for example Botox injections or lip fillers. You could assess and refer patients for these treatments, or carry them out yourself. You'd need to do further, accredited training to carry out these treatments.

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'd 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'd assess the dental health needs of the regional population rather than treat individuals. You'd then make sure that dental services meet those needs. You'd work with other dentists, NHS professionals, government departments and related agencies.

You can learn more about an NHS career as a dentist on their website.

Working conditions


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


UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Listening
  • Verbal communication
  • Problem solving
  • Observation
  • Empathising
  • Attention to detail
  • Developing a plan
  • Taking initiative
  • Time management
  • Taking responsibility

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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'd need an honours degree in dentistry. To enter a dentistry degree, you'd need:

  • National 5 qualifications
  • at least 5 Highers at AAAAB or above including Chemistry and another science subject (preferably Biology or Human Biology)

The Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) offers an Access to Medical Studies course. This allows people who have been out of education for a few years to gain a qualification that will allow entry to a degree course.

To apply for a SWAP course, you'll need to have been out of education for either:

  • 3 years if you studied at National 5 level
  • 5 years if you studied Highers

It'll help if you have work or volunteering experience when apply for courses.

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Useful subjects

  • English (essential)
  • maths or physics (essential)
  • biology (preferably human biology), chemistry and another science (essential)

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).