Many dentists consider their field of work a vocation and not a job. This is because of the dedication and hard work required to become a dentist, the lifelong commitment to the single discipline, and the tangible difference it makes to people’s lives.
It’s also one of the most competitive fields in the United Kingdom, which is partly due to the lack of university places available each year. A 2016 paper outlined that there’s approximately a 15:1 ratio between applicants and places, which limits the number of new dentists every year.
Due to the limited supply of qualified dentists, it’s one of the most lucrative lines of work out there, with dentist salaries consistently ranking as one of the highest in the UK. But how much do they actually earn?
That’s what we’ll explore in this article. We’ll look at the average salary for a dentist, how it compares to countries worldwide, how to become a dentist, and more.
The average salary for a dentist in the UK is £75,820 per year, which is more than double the average UK salary of £31,285 and markedly higher than the average salary in London of £39,716. The average total compensation of a dentist will be much higher when considering bonuses, overtime, and weekend rates. This goes to show that dentists are among some of the highest-paid professions in the UK. However, not all dentists are paid equally.
Newly qualified dentists who are in their one-year NHS training will earn £34,738 per year. A self-employed general dental practitioner (GDP) mixing NHS and private work can earn between £50,000 and £110,000, whilst a wholly private dentist can make more than £150,000 per year. Those who choose to enter dental core training instead of working in a dental practice will earn between £40,257 and £51,017. Dentists who the NHS fully employs will make anywhere between £43,019 and £92,013. In contrast, consultants working in dental specialities earn between £84,559 and £114,003 per year.
Research from Lenstore found the countries with the highest average dentist salary. The data found that, on average, dentists in the US are the best paid in the world, with an annual salary of £179,267 per year.
In second place is Belgium, with an annual salary of £149,773, followed by Denmark with £146,021. The UK fails to make the top 10 list altogether. The complete list is as follows:
- United States – £179,267
- Belgium – £149,773
- Denmark – £146,021
- Norway – £126,460
- Netherlands – £123, 116
- Finland – £118,692
- Iceland – £114,129
- Japan – £112,111
- France – £106,823
- Italy – £95,879.
The same research also found that the UK doesn’t make the top 10 list for doctor salaries either, highlighting that there are a large number of countries where workers earn considerably more in the healthcare industry than those in the UK.
When you think of a dentist who works at your local dental practice, you are thinking of a general dental practitioner – they are the most common type of dentist in the UK. GDPs are typically self-employed contractors who provide their services to the general public. This can be through the NHS, privately, or both. But this isn’t the only career path for a dentist.
They can also work in hospital dental care. Hospital dentistry mainly involves providing specialist advice and treatment for cases of special difficulty and treating both long-stay and short-stay patients in the hospital.
There is also the option of working in community dental care. This is where dentists work in nursing homes, mobile clinics, patients’ homes, or any other location to treat patients who cannot attend a dental practice due to special requirements. For instance, treating children and adults with physical or learning disabilities would fall under this category. Community dental services are an important area in the field of dentistry as it ensures dental care is available to all people.
Additionally, dentists can work in dental public health. Dental public health involves work that is unrelated to treating individual patients in a clinic, instead looking at the dental health needs of the entire population. Examples of this would be working with NHS stakeholders to influence dental health policy or advising the public and media on dental issues.
Finally, there is the field of dentistry in the armed forces. This is where the dentist provides treatment to soldiers, air force personnel, and sailors in the UK, as well as to armed forces personnel located in deployment areas abroad.
Most dentists who work as general dental practitioners under the NHS will be self-employed. There is only a tiny minority of GDPs who work as employees. As such, these self-employed dentists can choose the number of hours they want to work, and the minimum required amount will vary from dental practice to dental practice.
As a whole, there’s no requirement to work 40 hours per week, which also explains why opening times for certain dental practices will be different. Some dental practices close during the afternoon on specific days or may only be open three or four days a week. This freedom in working hours is one of the many reasons why working as a dentist is highly desired.
On the other hand, working in a hospital will be slightly different. Typically, dentists will be on a short-term contract that will arrange working hours depending on what’s needed at their facility. This can include irregular working hours and may require their dentists to be on-call and available at all hours of the day.
Perhaps the most obvious qualification you will need to be a dentist is a Bachelor’s degree in dentistry. But getting into a dental course at a university is no easy feat. A dentistry course is highly competitive and will require high grades in your A-levels to meet the entry requirements.
Biology and Chemistry are compulsory subjects, and you will usually be required to have a grade of A or A* to be considered. The last A-level subject is flexible, but Mathematics or Physics will round out your application. Some schools in the UK also offer a one-year pre-dental course for applicants who don’t have the required A-levels.
Once you have obtained your Bachelor’s degree, you will be required to register with the General Dental Council (GDC) if you want to practice as a qualified dentist. The GDC is a UK-wide statutory governing body for the dentistry profession. Also, it regulates all dentistry courses in the UK.
Suppose you would like to work as a dentist under the NHS. In that case, you will have to undertake vocational training (VT) or dental foundation training (DFT). Both of these are forms of supervised training at an approved dental practice and will last for one year.
At this point, you will be considered a newly qualified dentist. From here, you can begin your career working in one of many fields of dentistry. For those who are constantly looking to learn and update their knowledge, there are various additional postgraduate qualifications you can take. However, it is entirely optional.
First and foremost, you will need to possess the necessary knowledge to fulfil your duties, essentially being a competent dentist. You will also require the technical skills to carry out procedures when treating your patients, which will involve a high degree of manual dexterity and concentration.
Since you will be interacting with patients and colleagues for most of the day, you must have the ability to build relationships, communicate effectively, and have excellent interpersonal skills. You will also need to be culturally aware and have the ability to interact with patients from various backgrounds. These social and interpersonal skills are integral to being a successful dentist.
There is also a lot of managerial work involved in dentistry, particularly if you run a dental practice. You will have to manage nurses, technicians, hygienists, receptionists, etc. Being able to lead a team will be a required skill. Also, there are an increasing number of administrative tasks involved in dentist jobs, such as digital imaging, keeping records and accounts, etc., which will require the use of a computer. Therefore, computer literacy and IT skills are a must.
With an average salary of £75,820 per year, dentists are one of the highest-paid jobs in the UK. In some cases, private general dental practitioner salaries can be higher than £150,000. Regardless of the area of dentistry, you decide to work in, you will be earning far more than the UK average.
The high pay, along with the flexible working hours, also makes it one of the most competitive fields in the country. There are a limited number of undergraduate places available each year, and the job requires individuals to have a wide range of skill sets, such as strong interpersonal skills and the ability to manage a team.