Should I Choose Medicine Or Dentistry?

This is a question at University Expert where we often get asked, especially near the UCAS deadlines. It is quite rightly an important question and therefore we will cover this in some detail to make sure that you make the right choice.

The very first thing to remember is that both medicine and dentistry are vocations which mean that you are committing yourself for lifelong learning and adherence to a single discipline hopefully for the rest of your working career. It certainly is not the case where you decide to do medicine or dentistry and then decide you want to switch to something entirely different, it doesn’t work like that. Both professions have similar attributes in that they are genuine fulfilling careers where you are making a real difference to patients’ lives.

However there are distinct differences as well which you need to consider in order making the correct decision. So let’s read on for a deeper dive into dentistry or medicine careers and how they differ from each other. In this article we will give an overview of a career in dentistry including certain aspects such as what the study involves, what UCAS requirements are, cost implications and what happens when you qualify. 

How Competitive Is It To Get A Place For Dentistry?

If possible, we at University Expert strongly recommend that you speak to at least one or two dentists and get their perspective into dentistry as a career as well as obtaining the advantages of seeing dentistry in the UK but you should also have the other side of the coin as well.

Many students will say to us that I want to do one or the other because for example dentistry is less competitive. So let’s set the bar straight on this one. Without any doubt, dentistry is extremely competitive. In 2021, it was tougher to get a place in dental school than medical school. This is definitely not helped by the fact that there are fewer dental schools available to choose from compared to medicine.

If on average there were 20 students applying for one place in a medical school, with dentistry the figure was more like 25 to 30 applicants for each place. This means that you are at least 20 to 25% less likely to obtain a place for dentistry than medicine which is already one of the most competitive courses to get into.

Should I Study Dentistry Or Medicine?

One of the ways that we recommend students find the answer to that question is to investigate both medicine and dentistry much further into depth and detail.

There are also some differences within the application process even though there are many factors which are very similar or even exactly the same. For instance both for medicine and dentistry you require a top notch personal statement, high grades and a good UCAT or BMAT  score.

 As with medicine, to become a dentist you need to study at undergraduate level for 5-years. Once you have graduated, the next step is to register with the General Dental Council so that officially you can carry out treatment on patients. In addition, if you want to carry out treatment as an NHS dentist, there are additional applications Processes to follow with NHS England.

Some students, who have already done a relevant degree beforehand, can opt for the post- graduate entry course. In order to do this, you have to identify which dental schools even have a 4-year graduate entry course and whether your degree will be eligible. The process for graduates to carry out a 4-year graduate entry course is even tougher than the normal route. 

Costs Of Studying Medicine Or Dentistry

Many students ask us about the cost implications of studying for a 5-year graduate course. As a broad rounded up figure, the tuition fees will be £10,000 a year so already you have wrapped up £50,000 worth of debt. This is before you have even taken into account the additional costs of accommodation, textbook, equipment and travelling.

Out of all these costs, the accommodation will be most expensive with London easily topping the bill. Accommodation around Manchester and Bristol University is also now expensive. The average cost of renting out even a small flat in London will be £1,000 a month so that’s already more than the tuition fees and therefore you can easily build up another debt of £60,000 a year. Ultimately as a parent you need to know that the studying of dentistry will cost more than £100,000 a year.

 However, as a dentist you can earn significantly higher than the average graduate and this can accelerate quite quickly with the right type of experience and in the right type of practice that you may decide to work in. Also there are rules with regards to repaying the student loan such as earning above a UK threshold before you start paying it back gradually.

Now students are thinking that if the competition for places for dentistry is so intense, how can I make my application stand out amongst other students. The first thing to remember is that the dental school application isn’t a one trick pony show and you have to be good on several aspects of your application simultaneously.

Just to illustrate the point with an example, we know students who did well in the UCAT but their personal statement was weak and that could have been the reason why they did not get any offers. All the dental schools especially Leeds dental school always mention that they are looking for students who have a reflective and confident approach during their dental school application process and especially at the interview stage.

Surprisingly students who sometimes do not even read the admission tutors requirements for each dental school and therefore cannot expect a good result. We also recommend that you study the Dental Schools Council’s core values for dentistry.

Entry Requirements For Medicine And Dentistry

Let’s have a quick look at the GCSE and A level entry requirement.  The typical offer for dentistry is a requirement to obtain 3 As and even some universities ask for an A star. Most dental schools will also assume that you have A level in biology and chemistry.

They are more flexible therefore with the third A-level which can be anything from maths to psychology. For GCSEs, it goes without saying that you need high grades however you should check for each individual University as to what they require because one University will have different grades that you have not obtained but the same grades may be suitable for another University.

UCAT For Medicine and Dentistry Tutoring

 All dental universities require that you take an admissions test called the UCAT. Leeds requires the BMAT instead. All the different stages of the medicine or dentistry application process are designed to root out the strong candidates from the less able ones.

Here at University Expert, we offer tutoring and coaching throughout the whole process. For the majority of students, the decision to take the UCAT exam or the BMAT exam hinges on two factors. Firstly, it is important to realize that there are distinct differences between the UCAT and the BMAT exam. The BMAT is a written exam to test your scientific knowledge at GCSE/ A level including your critical thinking skills. In addition the test is designed to assess your problem-solving and writing skills.

Read our complete guide to the BMAT exam for more information. Do UCAT exams have distinct sections to assess different abilities and different thinking processes? Yes, there are 5 sections.  Both exams are challenging and are an important aspect of your application process so we always advise students to prepare thoroughly and if in doubt, perhaps seek additional tutoring.

Dentistry Personal Statements

Once you have filled out the UCAS application including sending the personal statement then you have to wait to receive an interview. All students will have to take an interview before they receive any offers of any kind.

Interviews are held usually as early as the beginning of November and can carry all the way up to April or even the beginning of May. This year we expect all the interviews to be live and not over Zoom as in the previous two years. The main two types of interviews are called Panel interviews or the Multiple Mini Interview where you rotate around different stations and in each station there will be a new interviewer and a new task or question set.

At University Expert, we have several experienced professional and highly qualified tutors who can prepare you thoroughly for both medicine and dentistry interviews.

Is Work Experience Important For The Ucas Dentistry Application?

We at University Expert would say that even if work experience was not necessary, why would you want to embark on a life-changing course and not know much about it. In any case, the universities insist on having work experience and ideally in a live setting such as General NHS Dental practice.

We also advised that the minimum amount of time that you spend on your work experience must be at least 5 full days preferably longer. This enables you to really get a flavour of what becoming a dentist is about and even if questions come up at your interview you feel more confident to answer these.

Personal Statement Help For The Ucas Dentistry Application?

The personal statement for dentistry should focus on why you want to do dentistry, what skills you have that will make you a good dentist and how you are reflected during your work experience and extracurricular activities. The universities are more interested in your insight on a particular aspect rather than seeing a long list of activities that you have done. When formulating your personal statement, you should always have at the back of your mind the question, why do I want to study dentistry?

In any case this is a very common question that you can be asked at your dental school application interview journey so you would be well advised to be able to feel comfortable in answering this important question. Every answer has to be tailor made to yourself and include your personal experience that led you to want to study dentistry, how you reflected on it and how your attributes match the core principles of becoming a dentist.

There are certain do’s and don’ts in answering this question and we will delve into this in a bit more detail now. As always, if you feel you need help with your interview technique then contact us at University Expert where we will allocate a dedicated tutor to guide you into the process.

During your dental University interviews, you must talk about your personal experiences rather than what you have heard or what you are red. Universities also dislike students using common clichés such as I’ve always wanted to be a dentist or I really enjoy helping people because I’m good at communicating.

If you can talk about something that you saw and reflected on during your work experience, that will impress them. Another don’t use is to talk about the salary or pay aspect of dentistry. However you can say that it is a secure career and there are shortages of dentists in the UK.

During your answers, take a balanced approach and try to summarize at the end your positive and negative aspects of a career in dentistry. However many universities will want to tell you a little bit further and ask you about other dental related careers such as being a dental nurse, a dental hygienist, a dental therapist or a dental technician.

Ucas Deadlines For Medicine Or Dentistry

The deadline for medicine and dentistry is different compared to those to the majority of other courses and it is around the 15th of October each year. The UCAS body is very strict about this and even if your application is submitted a day late, it will automatically be rejected.

Also during and before the deadline, your school and college will have to make sure that all the references are returned in time. Many schools and sixth form colleges and will have their own earlier internal deadline anyway.

A List Of Dental Universities For Undergraduate Study

There are up to 16 dental schools in the UK and of which two are graduate entries. In addition there are two postgraduate entry Dental Institutes.

Before you decide which dental University you want to apply to, it would be a good idea to write down each individual dental school, their website to dress, their contact details and their entry requirements.

This list would include dental schools such as the Belfast dental hospital, Birmingham dental school, Bristol dental school, Cardiff University dental hospital, Dundee dental University, Glasgow dental hospital, Leeds dental Hospital, Liverpool dental University, London King’s College London Barts and the London School of medicine and dentistry,  the Manchester School of Dentistry, Newcastle dental hospital, Plymouth dental Teaching Hospital, Sheffield dental Hospital, Aberdeen Teaching Hospital for dentistry and Preston University of Central Lancashire. There are also other institutes such as the UCL Eastman Dental Institute and the Edinburgh Dental Institute.

Many parents each year ask us which the best dental school to apply to is. They will give us articles including university guide rankings and newspaper articles however we say that it is best to choose the dental school which your son or daughter will fit into the best. It also depends on the individual entry requirements and that must be your first priority.

Can I Study Dentistry At Cambridge Or Oxford?

The simple answer to this is, no you cannot study dentistry at Cambridge or Oxford and unlike medicine where they do have courses for graduates.

Can I Study Dentistry Part-Time?

Currently there are no dental teaching facilities to learn dentistry on a part-time basis. All the dental hospitals only offer a 5-year study course on a full-time basis and where you need to actually attend in person. There is no such thing as a dentistry online course.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise as you as a dentist will be treating patients face-to-face and therefore you need to learn all the skills with patients in order to be safe and competent. This is not to say that all of the universities will expect you to attend the university building physically every day because there is an increase in teaching styles online but the majority will be in a physical setting.

UCAS Dentistry Clearing Options

You may have heard that one way in which to get into a course is through clearing but unfortunately, dentistry is so competitive that the universities don’t really need to offer any clearing places. Having said that, it is worth bearing in mind that if you have had an interview and you did not receive an offer, you may still be put on a type of waiting list where perhaps you were quite close to getting an offer and there is still a chance.

What Options Are There After I Graduate As A Dentist?

Initially, you will need to undertake 1-year of dental Foundation training where you work within a NHS practice however there is no pressure on you to carry out a minimum amount of work each day. Certainly you will be getting patients everyday, but you will not be pressured into performing more than you can handle.

The advantage of this is to initially work under a type of supervision with a more experienced dentist usually the practice owner or the principal and also it eases you into general practice. If you want to specialize in a particular aspect of dentistry such as Orthodontics, you need to do some further training such as dental core training. This may be anywhere from 1 to 3 years depending on the speciality and after that you can apply for your name to be added to the general Dental Council specialist training list.


In summary, dentistry is a very fulfilling and diverse career. Even as we speak now, there is a desperate need for more dentists in the UK and with that there are many opportunities. We ask parents and students to prepare early and get tutoring or coaching where you require guidance.

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