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What A-levels Do You Need to Become a Dentist?

What A-levels Do You Need to Become a Dentist?

8 min Read|February 06 2024
|Written by:

Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa


Becoming a dentist can be an exciting and rewarding career path. However, before embarking on this journey, it is essential to know what A-levels you need to study dentistry. Most dental schools require specific A-levels, and some may ask for certain grades. Studying A-levels in the right subjects is important as it can increase your chances of being accepted and prepare you well for the demanding nature of this degree.

In this article, we will discuss what A-levels you need to study dentistry, what A-level grades you need, and other important factors related to studying this degree. We aim to provide a clearer understanding of the A-level requirements for studying dentistry and to equip you with the information to make the right choices to embark on this career path.

Why A-Levels Matter for Studying Dentistry

A-levels are an essential part of the journey towards studying dentistry. Dental schools require specific A-levels to ensure that students have a solid foundation in the required subjects. According to a study conducted by the British Dental Association, students with good A-level grades tend to perform better in their dentistry courses, suggesting that A-levels are a good predictor of academic performance in dentistry.

In 2020, over 13,000 students applied to study dentistry, but only 1,239 places were available, making it highly competitive. This means that having the right A-levels can give you an edge over other applicants.

Recommended A-Levels for Dentistry

Universities that offer dentistry in the UK require students to have a strong academic background in science, and therefore, the following A-levels are recommended:

1. Biology: This subject provides knowledge of human anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry, which are fundamental to understanding the structures and functions of the human body.

2. Chemistry: A strong understanding of chemistry is vital for studying dentistry. This subject provides knowledge of organic and inorganic chemistry, which are essential in understanding the chemical reactions and properties of the materials used in dentistry.

3. Maths: Mathematics is beneficial in understanding the numerical aspects of the subject, such as pharmacology and dental materials.

4. Physics: Although not a mandatory subject, physics can be beneficial in providing an understanding of the principles of mechanics and materials science, which are relevant to dentistry.

For broader guidance on how to select your A-level subjects, read our complete guide on choosing your A-Levels.

Recommended Facilitating A-level Subjects for Dentistry

Should you wish to substitute one of the subjects above or study four A-levels, there are certain facilitating subjects that you could add or switch out. Facilitating subjects are useful for your application to study dentistry based on how you position them in your application. You should explain how they have better equipped you to study this degree.

Our top three recommended facilitating subjects are:

1. English: While not a science subject, English is important for developing strong communication skills, which are essential for working with patients and colleagues.

2. Psychology: Dentistry involves interacting with patients and their families, which requires an understanding of human behaviour. Psychology can help students understand the emotional and psychological needs of their patients, making them better dentists.

3. Sociology: This subject provides an understanding of the social determinants of health and illness, which is essential in treating patients from diverse backgrounds. Additionally, it helps develop interpersonal skills necessary for effective patient care.

A-level subject combinations for Dentistry

Making the final decision on the right combination of A-levels to study can be daunting.

Here are a few examples of our recommended subject combinations for studying dentistry:

1. Biology, Chemistry, and Maths: These three A-levels are the most commonly required by dental schools in the UK. Biology and Chemistry provide essential knowledge of human anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry, while Maths is beneficial for the quantitative and problem-solving skills needed in dentistry.

2. Biology, Chemistry, and Physics: This combination is similar to the first but with the inclusion of Physics. Physics covers topics such as mechanics, energy, and waves which have applications in dentistry, such as understanding the properties of dental materials and the physics of X-rays.

3. Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology: This combination is similar to the first but with the inclusion of Psychology. Psychology equips students with the skills to effectively communicate and manage patients' psychological needs.

Overall, the recommended A-level subject combinations for dentistry are those that provide a strong foundation in the sciences, particularly Biology and Chemistry, while also emphasising the development of skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication. Students should check the specific entry requirements of their chosen dental schools to ensure they meet the necessary criteria.

For more information, read our article on the best A-Level combinations.

What A-Level grades are needed for Dentistry?

In order to be considered for a dentistry course at university, students are required to have achieved specific grades in their A-levels. The grades required can vary between universities and can also change from year to year. Typically, universities will ask for AAA grades, including Chemistry and Biology. However, some universities will accept lower grades, such as ABB or BBB, particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It is important to note that while grades are important, universities will also take into consideration other factors such as personal statements, interviews, and work experience. In fact, some universities may lower their grade requirements for students who have completed relevant work experience or have shown a strong passion for the subject.

It is also worth considering that dentistry is a highly competitive field, with more applicants than available places at universities. This means that achieving the minimum required grades may not be sufficient to secure a place on a course. Students who have achieved higher grades or have additional qualifications or experience will have a better chance of being accepted onto a course.

Getting additional help from a tutor is one way to improve your grades. You can read up about our A-level tutors and the assistance we provide here.

Dentistry courses with a foundation year

Dentistry courses with a foundation year are an excellent option for students who don't meet the traditional entry requirements for a dentistry degree but still have the passion and ability to succeed in the field. A foundation year is typically a one-year course that helps students meet the minimum entry requirements for a degree program.

There are several universities in the UK that offer dentistry courses with foundation years, including the University of Sheffield, the University of Central Lancashire, and the University of Plymouth. These courses typically cover basic science and math principles, as well as communication skills and basic dentistry concepts.

It's worth noting that foundation year courses may have different entry requirements than traditional dentistry degrees. For example, the University of Central Lancashire requires applicants to have at least five GCSEs, including English and maths, and a grade C or above in science. In contrast, the University of Plymouth requires applicants to have at least five GCSEs, including English, maths, and science, with grades of 6 or above.

While foundation year courses may take an additional year of study, they can provide an excellent pathway for students who may have otherwise been unable to pursue a career in dentistry. Additionally, foundation year courses may provide students with additional support and resources to succeed in their degree program.

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How long does it take to become a dentist?

Becoming a dentist requires extensive education and training, which can take several years. In the United Kingdom, it takes five years to complete an undergraduate degree in dentistry, after which graduates must complete a one-year foundation training program before practicing as a dentist. However, some students may choose to pursue additional postgraduate training or specialty programs, which can take up to eight years in total.

Below is an overview of a career in dentistry in the UK, including study duration, grade requirements, cost, and potential earnings.

A Career in Dentistry

A Career in Dentistry

Entry requirements to study Dentistry

The entry requirements to study dentistry for UK universities generally include:

1. Academic qualifications: Usually A-levels or equivalent qualifications are required in Chemistry and Biology, and another subject. Some universities may require a fourth subject at A-level as well.

2. Grade requirements: Candidates are expected to obtain high grades in their A-levels. Most universities require AAA, with some requiring AAB or ABB.

3. Admissions tests: Some universities may require candidates to take a university-specific aptitude test, such as the UCAT or BMAT.

4. Work experience: Many universities require candidates to have work experience in a dental setting. This may include shadowing a dentist or working as a dental assistant.

5. Personal statement: Candidates are required to write a personal statement demonstrating their interest in dentistry, relevant skills, and work experience.

6. Interview: Shortlisted candidates may be invited to attend an interview as part of the admissions process.

You can read about entry requirements in more detail here.

Admissions tests for Dentistry

Admissions tests are a crucial component of the application process for dentistry programs in many countries, including the UK. These tests are used to assess candidates' academic knowledge and aptitude for the field of dentistry, as well as to differentiate between applicants who may have similar academic records.

In the UK, the most commonly used admissions test for dentistry programs is the Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT). The UCAT assesses a candidate's critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills, as well as their ability to understand and interpret data. The test is computer-based and takes around two hours to complete. Another admissions test that may be accepted by some UK dental schools includes the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT). Because of the difficulty and importance of these tests, many students choose to hire a UCAT tutor or BMAT tutor to help them prepare.

It is important to note that the specific admissions tests accepted by each dental school may vary, so it is essential for prospective students to research the requirements of each program they are interested in applying to.

Final Thoughts

The right A-levels are key to pursuing a career in dentistry, with most dental schools having specific requirements that need to be met. A strong foundation in sciences, particularly Biology and Chemistry, is beneficial to applicants, and Maths and Physics can also help. It is good practise to consult good A-Level tutors for expert advice, tips and resources on how to ace these subjects.

The grades required can vary between universities, with some requiring AAA, including Chemistry and Biology, and others accepting lower grades, such as ABB or BBB. Good communication skills are important for dentists, and studying non-science subjects like Psychology and Sociology can help develop these skills.

Ultimately, the most important factor is to choose subjects that you enjoy and can excel in. It is also important to research the entry requirements of specific universities and law courses to ensure that you are taking the appropriate A-level subjects.


What can you do with a dentistry degree?

A dentistry degree opens up a variety of career paths in the healthcare industry. Many graduates go on to become general dentists, working in private practice or for the National Health Service (NHS). Others choose to specialise in areas such as orthodontics, periodontology, endodontics, or oral surgery. With further training and experience, dentists can also pursue roles in academia, research, or healthcare management. Some dentistry graduates may also choose to work for international aid organisations, providing dental care to communities in need around the world.

Is there an option to study dentistry part-time?

In the UK, some universities do offer part-time courses for dentistry. However, it's worth noting that studying part-time may lengthen the overall duration of the degree program. Additionally, the availability of part-time dentistry programs may vary between universities, so it's important to research and compare options thoroughly. It's also worth noting that the competition for part-time dentistry programs may be higher due to their limited availability.

What are gateway to dentistry courses in the UK?

Gateway to Dentistry courses are designed for students who do not meet the typical entry requirements for a dentistry degree program but have a strong academic background and potential to succeed in the field. These courses are usually one-year in duration and offer an alternative route into dentistry, with successful completion leading to entry onto a dentistry degree program.

What GCSE subjects do you need in high school to be a dentist?

To study dentistry at university level in the UK, you will typically need to have at least 5 GCSEs (or equivalent) at grade C/4 or above, including:

1. English language

2. Mathematics

3. Science (double or triple award, usually including biology and chemistry)

Some universities may also prefer or require a foreign language GCSE, and some may look for evidence of proficiency in manual dexterity skills, such as art or design and technology. It is important to check the specific entry requirements for the universities you are interested in applying to, as they may vary slightly.

What are the best universities to study dentistry at?

There are several reputable universities in the UK that offer excellent dentistry programs. While the "best" university may vary depending on individual preferences and criteria, here are some universities renowned for their dentistry programs:

1. University of Birmingham

2. King's College London

3. University of Manchester

4. University of Glasgow

5. University of Bristol

These universities are known for their strong academic curriculum, research opportunities, clinical training facilities, and experienced faculty.

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If you’re looking for assistance with your A-Levels and getting into Dental School, get in touch with the TutorChase team and we’ll be able to provide you with an expert A-Level, BMAT, or UCAT tutor. We’ll be there every step of the way!



Professional tutor and Cambridge University researcher

Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa

Written by: Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa

Oxford University - PhD Mathematics

Rahil spent ten years working as private tutor, teaching students for GCSEs, A-Levels, and university admissions. During his PhD he published papers on modelling infectious disease epidemics and was a tutor to undergraduate and masters students for mathematics courses.

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