Careers Service

Gaining Experience

Gaining Experience

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

You will preferably need two weeks dental work experience, usually within a general dental practice, before you apply for a dentistry course. This will allow you to gain an understanding of what the profession is like and the issues surrounding the NHS. A combination of NHS and private experience is beneficial. 

Check with individual dental schools how much work experience they prefer as this does vary between institutions.

Having work experience which is recent demonstrates your enthusiasm to the profession and keeps you up to date with current issues. If your experience was gained overseas, you will ideally need to gain UK-based experience too.

You will also need to keep up to date with dentistry and the NHS in the media (British Dental Association, General Dental Council, The Guardian, BBC news, NHS news).

Shadowing and dental experience

Work shadowing with dental practitioners can demonstrate your knowledge of the profession when applying. 

Experience in a dental setting is essential when applying for courses, look for opportunities within:

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

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 TARGETjobs' article: Making speculative applications for graduate jobs

Use the NHS or the Care Quality Commission find a dentist search tool to find details of local health teams to contact about shadowing.

For more advice on finding dental work experience see Student Room's article on finding dentistry work experience

Newcastle University Dental Experience

The School of Dental Sciences at Newcastle University may be able to help you find work experience and offers the opportunity to arrange a week of work experience at the Dental Hospital in Newcastle

Finding additional relevant experience

Opportunities in care or community work allow you to gain experience with people of different ages and circumstances, including those who are vulnerable, anxious or in distress. Experience working in a caring environment develops your communication skills, empathy and ability to develop relationships.

Examples of other 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 have a range of relevant volunteering projects including working with the elderly, children, and people with physical, mental or learning disabilities.
  • Do-it – 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 and also organisations offering relevant overseas projects in developing countries. (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

Gaining experience on our Healthcare page advertises paid and voluntary opportunities in this area.

Online Courses

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