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Training and qualification of dentists in the UK

Dentists today carry out many different procedures from drilling and filling cavities, to tooth whitening, or inserting implants and veneers.  In order to qualify as a dentist, undergraduates follow a five year degree course.  There are thirteen dental schools in the UK and entry on to the dentistry degree requires three good ‘A’ levels in science-based subjects such as chemistry and biology with at least one of these at grade ‘A’. 

The dentistry curriculum is set by the General Dental Council (GDC), the dentist’s governing body in the UK, and covers all the mono specialist subjects from periodontology (gum disease), to oral surgery and prosthodontics (false teeth), taking into account current dentistry needs and trends to leave dentists fully proficient for independent practice. 

After learning all about the materials and the science of dentistry the real training starts thereafter with compulsory Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Postgraduate Study.  All GDC members must undertake 250 hours of  CPD over five years to retain their place on the Dentists Register.  CPD subjects include dealing with medical emergencies, legal and ethical issues and how to handle complaints.

All postgraduate level courses are overseen by the GDC, and the range of education is monitored and inspected for quality.  Dentists might for example choose to undertake a Masters in Implant Dentistry, Oral Medicine or Public Health and postgraduate level study can mean a dentist is eligible to be listed on the GDC’s Specialist Lists.

Once dentists have completed their dentistry degree they are awarded the following abbreviations after their name:

  • BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery)

  • BChD (Bachelor of Dental Surgery)

  • And less commonly LDS (Licence of Dental Surgery). 

Once a dentist has undertaken postgraduate study and specialised in surgical dentistry or periodontology for example, the initials MClinDent will be awarded or MSc for Endodontics or Implant Dentistry. 

MFDSRCS stands for Member in Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons.

FDSRCS stands for Fellow in Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons. 

Patients are always advised to enquire about a dentist’s postgraduate training and education, to ask to see previous cases and how many cosmetic procedures they have performed before going ahead with cosmetic dental  treatment.

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