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Gaining Experience for Dental School

Applying to dental school is extremely competitive. Recent and relevant work experience or shadowing is essential for all dentistry courses.

Gaining dental experience

You will preferably need two weeks dental work experience before you apply to a dentistry course. It is recommended to do this within a general dental practice.

This will allow you to gain an understanding of what the profession is like. A combination of NHS and private experience is beneficial.

Experience in a dental setting is essential when applying for courses. Look for shadowing opportunities within:

  • NHS and private practices
  • community general practices
  • dental schools
  • dental hospitals and orthodontists
  • maxillofacial departments
  • dental laboratories

“Being a dentist demands diagnostic, clinical and social skills and allows you the unique opportunity to pursue several careers which offer an intellectual and practical challenge, as well as a service to society and a respected place in the community.”

British Dental Association (BDA)

Check with individual dental schools how much work experience they prefer.

Having recent work experience demonstrates your enthusiasm. If your experience was gained overseas, some UK-based experience would be helpful too.

You will also need to keep up to date with dentistry and the NHS in the media:

Finding additional relevant experience

Whilst experience in a dental environment is recommended, additional work experience is also valuable. Working in a care environment allows you to gain experience with people of different ages and circumstances. This includes people who are vulnerable or in distress. This work will develop your communication skills, empathy and ability to develop rapport.

Examples of relevant experience in a health related field include:

Where to find paid opportunities

Where to find voluntary experience

  • Go Volunteer, based in the Students’ Union. There is a range of relevant volunteering projects working with the elderly, children people with disabilities.
  • Do-it. Find opportunities across the UK in a wide range of roles including:
    • disability
    • drugs and addictions
    • health and social care
    • mental health
    • the elderly
  • Some volunteering opportunities are available in the NHS. Contact NHS Trusts directly to find out what is available.
  • See Volunteering for more opportunities including some abroad. (There is usually a cost involved in these). An online search will also bring up many more organisations but do your research before handing over any money
  • See our Healthcare page for more information. It also advertises paid and voluntary opportunities in this area.

Speculative applications

Practices and trusts don’t usually advertise work experience. You will need to contact them directly – where possible to a named contact. For more advice about this, see our webpage on speculative applications.

Use the NHS or the Care Quality Commission find a dentist search tool. This can help you find details of local health teams who you could contact about shadowing.

Newcastle University dental experience

The School of Dental Sciences at Newcastle University may be able to help you find work experience. It is possible to arrange a week of work experience at the Dental Hospital in Newcastle.

Online courses

The University of Sheffield have developed a free online course Discover Dentistry. This provides an introduction to the dentistry profession.