Essential Guide to Study Dentistry

What is dentistry?

Dentists are medical professionals who care specifically for oral health. Dentistry includes the treatment of teeth and gums, as well as certain problems of the head and neck. Day to day, a dentist could be doing anything from cleaning teeth to performing surgeries.

Every year, dentists help millions of people keep smiling. As a dentistry student, you’ll learn how to diagnose, maintain, and improve people’s oral health. You’ll also explore cosmetic dentistry, helping people feel more confident and attractive through aesthetic surgery of their mouth, gums, and teeth.

You’ll learn and apply a combination of medicine, science, people skills, and many other disciplines, before you’re a qualified dentist – an achievement that normally takes five years or more.

Many students prefer to pursue dental studies in Canada, as it is considered one of the leading countries in this field. The education system in Canada is also internationally known for its quality and development. In addition to this, Canadian medical universities are enjoying a well-known reputation due to their institutions and facilities, from modern laboratories equipped with the latest technology and other very excellent infrastructure.

Are you wondering how long does it take to study dentistry in Canada? The study of dentistry in Canada extends to 6 years, during which the student obtains a state certificate in dental surgery or orthodontics.

Why study dentistry at university?

Dentistry offers a very clear career path for students, one with outstanding salary and employment prospects. Once qualified, you can expect to be earning upwards of £30,000 as a starting graduate salary, and it’s not unusual for dentists to achieve six-figure sums after some years of practise.

The rapid development of scientific technology means that dentistry can also be a fast-paced and exciting industry to work in. Emerging technologies brings new specialisms to the subject, in addition to the many sub-sets you can already choose from: orthodontist, paediatric, cosmetic and aesthetic, endodontist, and many more.

And of course, the feel good factor of medical practitioners applies just as much to dentistry as to any other field. As a dentist, you will be helping people stay healthy and happy on a daily basis.

Subjects you may study

All medical degrees begin with a general grounding on the subject. So in medicine, this is a deep understanding of human biology, the principles of disease processes and an introduction to different medical solutions and clinical procedures. A dentistry degree, at its core, covers anatomy, physiology and biochemistry, as well as practical aptitudes like taking a medical history, doing dental examinations, orthodontics and anaesthesia.

You will then be able to pursue more specialist subjects; for dentistry, this might be in paediatric dentistry, dental prosthetics, dental radiography and radiology. Medical specialisations are very broad, such as ophthalmology, obstetrics and gynaecology or anaesthetics. Both medicine and dentistry degrees equip students with the vital practical skills to do surgical procedures, for example, as well as with the people skills necessary to interact with patients and their relatives.

Some modules you may study are:

  • Patient assessment
  • Radiology
  • Oral biology
  • Periodontology
  • Digestive, renal, and endocrine systems
  • Paediatric dentistry
  • Healthcare ethics and law
  • Clinical skills

Even if you decide not to pursue a career in dentistry after graduating, you will have acquired a vast range of skills, and a demonstration of commitment, which will give you solid prospects in many fields. Over your five years of study, you will have mastered a high degree of technical expertise, resilience and stamina, advanced people skills, and many other desirable traits.

What kind of work experience should I be able to show for dentistry?

Not all universities will expect you to have worked in a dental practice by the time you apply, but you should be able to demonstrate your commitment to a caring profession, and resilience to one which can be very demanding.

Dentistry course entry requirements

Qualifications in chemistry and/or biology are requirements for most universities, with physics and mathematics also viewed by many as complementary relevant subjects. The expected grade standards for dentistry are broadly higher than most subjects, as is true for all medicine degrees.

What GCSEs and A Levels do I need to be a dentist?

To study dentistry in the UK, you need to achieve good grades in science-related subjects throughout your GCSES and A Levels (or equivalent) – as well as in any other subjects you study. Future dentists should choose to study Chemistry and Biology at A Level, but other possible subjects to consider include Mathematics and Physics.

Will I need to take a UCAT for dentistry, like medicine students do?

Not necessarily, but some universities will require you to successfully pass the UCAT (University Clinical Apptitude Test). This test determines whether you have the best combination of mental abilities, attitudes, and professional behaviours that are appropriate for an aspiring medical practitioner. Find out more about UCAT

Interview and Admission Test

Most dentistry courses at UK universities require an admissions interview. These interviews can be challenging, as places are competitive. Make sure you sufficiently prepare for your interviews – as there are other important factors to consider as well as your academic performance. You may also be asked about your personal interests and your reasons for becoming a dentist.

To study dentistry in the UK, you will have to complete an admissions test as part of the entry requirements. Depending on the university you choose, you will have to pass either the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) or the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT). Find out which admissions exam is required for your course by checking the specific entry requirements for your university.

Alongside academic requirements, you will also need to show an aptitude for your chosen subject. Things that may help your application include volunteering opportunities within dentistry, as well as anything that shows your communication and team work skills. These can be evidenced by anything from extracurricular qualifications to school clubs and societies.

Study Cost

Obviously, in order to study dentistry in Canada, you will likely need to have the amount of CAD $ 22,000 to $ 56,000 CAD annually to be able to cover tuition and living expenses. However, this study cost is merely an average and will vary according to the institution you are enrolled in as well as your living expenses.

What can you do with a dentistry degree?

Most dentistry graduates will go on to become dentists, generally in the following capacities:

  • dentist (NHS, private, military etc.)
  • dental hygienist
  • dental technician
  • orthodontist.

But, your interdisciplinary skills will also be useful in a number of dentistry-related careers including:

  • medical lecturer
  • clinical academic
  • medical researcher
  • laboratory technician
  • medical technology professional
  • health aid worker.

As an oral health therapist, dentist, specialist or researcher, you’ll contribute to the health and wellbeing of your community and deliver on our mission to “put the mouth back into health”.

What’s it like to study dentistry?

Dentistry is not an easy ride, but it is a rewarding one. As a medical qualification, both the entry requirements and the course demands are rigorous – as befits a process which allows you to treat and operate on patients.

Studying dentistry is a varied and dynamic experience, which develops as the five-year course progresses. The first year will generally offer a grounding for the subject, primarily in lectures and seminars. The second year will offer chances to begin specialisation in certain areas of dentistry, and from the third year you will begin to amass practical experience. You will have the opportunity to observe specialists at work, and treat your own patients under supervision.

There is less flexibility on dentistry courses than other degrees, as there are more mandatory modules, to ensure graduates have the required skills to enter medical practice. In terms of learning styles, you will generally be:

  • writing reports and essays
  • attending lectures and seminars
  • observing professional dentistry
  • carrying out supervised practical dentistry

Classroom time in dentistry is similar to other medical degrees, which is much higher than other qualifications. Expect to spend between 24 – 27 hours per week in the classroom, or in practical environments, as the course progresses.

Why study dentistry at Sydney?

  • We’re Australia’s first dental school and have been training dental practitioners for more than 100 years.
  • In 2021 the new Susan Wakil Health Building will open, offering state-of-the-art, multidisciplinary learning and research facilities.
  • Our courses are taught by experienced clinicians and researchers and are patient-centred, evidence-based and responsive to community needs.
  • Our courses emphasise clinical experience, and we have connections with Sydney Dental Hospital, Nepean Hospital and Westmead Centre for Oral Health, as well as local health district dental hospitals in remote, regional and rural NSW (including Ballina, Broken Hill, Dubbo, Orange and Armidale).
  • Most of our courses are accredited by the Australian Dental Council (see relevant course page for details).
  • 90% of undergraduate and 88% of postgraduate students gain full-time employment within 12-months of completing their course (based on the 2017 Graduate Outcomes Survey (GOS)).


If you want to combine work and study while earning a salary, you could consider an apprenticeship. Which apprenticeships are available, and how you apply, depends on where you live.

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