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Dentistry Work Experience (and Voluntary work)
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Main InformationWhere to get Work ExperienceTips for securing Work Experience
Ideas for voluntary workUniversity Work Experience requirements and preferences

Main Information

Work experience is a central part of your application to study Dentistry. Not only do Universities require a minimum amount of work experience, but it allows you to gain an insight into the field and will either confirm your interest in the career, or highlight that Dentistry is not the course for you. Dentistry is a long and challenging course, and so confirming your interest and suitability to the career should be the primary aim of your work experience.

The experience does not necessarily have to be directly related to dentistry for it to be useful to your application, which is why this article also includes advice on voluntary work that can help to develop many transferable skills and provide close contact with the general public.

Where to get Work Experience

It is beneficial to your application if you have work experience in a variety of dental settings. This includes the compulsory experience for most Universities in a General Dental Practice, as well as optional areas such as Private Dentistry, Orthodontics, Hospital Dentistry, a Dental Laboratory, Oral and Maxillofacial surgery and in a Community Dental Practice. By doing work experience in a variety of settings, in your Personal statement and at interview you will be able to discuss in depth the similarities and differences between different areas and the reasons for this, as well as gaining a clear overview of how different areas of Dentistry work together to provide effective treatment.

Although having work experience in various setting is advisable, don't lose track of the fact that solid work experience in a General Dental Practice (in the UK) should be central to your application.

General Dental Practice

Requirement: Necessary
Aim for: 2 weeks +

The majority of Dental schools require work experience in a General Dental practice (GDP), as this is the area of Dentistry most graduates enter after University. Most Universities ask for a minimum of 2 weeks in a GDP - this can be two weeks in one practice, a week in two different practices, or even various days in a number of different practices. For more information of different Universities' requirements, see here.

It is beneficial not to just do two weeks in one single practice, as by doing work experience in more than one establishment you can gain an understanding of how different practices run, and the reasons for this.

Generally, your work experience will be a combination of two different roles. Firstly, you may be assigned to administration tasks such as filing patient records, making and taking telephone calls and booking appointments on reception. Secondly, you may be given the opportunity to shadow a Dentist or a Dental nurse whilst they are in surgery. Your Dentist or the Dental nurse should always ask for patient consent before the appointment begins.

If you are lucky, some General Dental practices have in-house Dental hygienists or Dental therapists who you may also have the opportunity to shadow. This will allow you to draw upon the importance of team work in Dentistry in your Personal statement.

Private Dentistry

Requirement: Optional, but beneficial
Aim for: Anything from a few days - 2 weeks (or even more if possible)

You can gain work experience in Private Dentistry by observing in a practice that offers both NHS and Private treatments, or a practice that is solely Private. Private dentistry will usually be a combination of patients who wanted faster treatment than on the NHS, or for those who want Cosmetic dentistry such as implants or veneers. Private dentistry will be useful to your application as in interview you will be able to draw upon the differences between both the private and NHS sectors, and answer questions on things such as the value of the NHS effectively.


Requirement: Optional, but beneficial
Aim for: Anything from a few days - 2 weeks (or even more if possible)

Orthodontics is a speciality of Dentistry that is concerned with improper bites (malocclussions) and the correction of irregularities of the teeth. You will probably know that the majority of an Orthodontist's job is concerned with fitting, cavity restoration and changing Dental braces with the help of dental articulation . As this is a speciality of Dentistry, the majority of your time will be observing and doing administration work.

By doing work experience with an Orthodontist you gain insight into a different field of Dentistry, and how this speciality cooperates with other fields such as General Practice. You will also be able expand your knowledge of specialist procedures.

Hospital Dentistry / Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

Requirement: Optional, but beneficial
Aim for: Anything from a few days - 2 weeks (or even more if possible)

Gaining work experience in a hospital setting will be extremely valuable for your application as you can show many skills that are valuable to being a successful Dentist, such as effective communication skills and a caring nature. Observing a hospital dentist will give you an insight into a completely different area of Dentistry, which you will then be able to compare with the NHS and even the private sector.

Dental Laboratory

Requirement: Optional, but beneficial
Aim for: 2 or 3 days

Work experience in a Dental laboratory will allow you to see the role of a Dental technician and their importance to a practising Dentist. A technician is someone who makes the dental appliances for General Dentistry and Cosmetic Dentistry, including: bridges, crowns, dentures and implants.

During experience at a Dental laboratory, you may be given the opportunity to make impressions or make an appliance such as a denture or work with certain lab equipments. This will be useful in displaying manual dexterity skills.

Community Dental Practice

Requirement: Optional, but beneficial
Aim for: A few days - 1 week

A Community Dental Practice is a specialist practice that deals with patients who are unable to attend a General Dental Practice. This can include those with learning difficulties or disabilities, those who need emergency treatment and those who have a strong fear, or even a phobia of the Dentist.

Tips for securing Work Experience

  • Contact as many places as you can, as early as you can. There will be lots of competition for work experience placements for Dentistry, and some practices don't allow work experience students for certain reasons; such as needing to be immunised against Hepatitis B or needing to be over 18. The earlier you apply, the more time you have to call other places if you are rejected and once you have work experience in a GDP, the more time you will then have to look at other areas of Dentistry.
  • Don't just concentrate on dental positions, consider other caring roles.
  • Don't just send a letter with a CV attached and wait endlessly for a response. Try ringing up practices first - you will get a direct answer and then if they want you to send a letter, they will tell you. An even better option, showing initiative and getting a direct response, is to go into the practice yourself and ask to directly speak to the Dentist or the Practice Manager.
  • If you're having difficulty going through general channels, consider contacting dentists directly via their secretaries to see if you can arrange placements that way.

Ideas for voluntary work

Voluntary work is vital for some Universities and another great addition to your application. Through doing voluntary work you can show many skills that are transferable to Dentistry and the ability to communicate and care for members of the general public.

It is better to do long-term voluntary work (for example once a week for a few months) than "blocks" in different places, as this shows commitment.

Some helpful resources for voluntary work are:

Hospice / Care Home

It is advisable that you apply for a placement to your local Hospice or Care Home arly (bearing in mind you have to be 16+). Volunteer work is popular here for both Medicine and Dentistry and competition for the few places is extremely high. You can get close patient contact and can actually sit down and talk to people, whether it is nurses, the patients, your co-volunteers or the families that come to visit and show a caring side that is vital in Dentistry.


Voluntary work in a Hospital is extremely competitive and so you should also apply early. Volunteering in a Hospital will allow you to display a caring nature and allows you to develop lots of skills. Work here will usually involve talking to patients, serving refreshments on a ward trolley or even welcoming people at an information desk as they enter.

Charity Shops

It is also a nice idea to try and go around town and see if there are any charity shops that are willing to take you on as a volunteer. The best way to ask is to make a CV, and then go to each charity shop asking to see the manager. Just explain that you’re looking to work there as a volunteer and give them the CV. Now most people think that this is probably going to be a boring job, but you’d be surprised at the variety of things one can do in a charity shop. You can work upstairs working with all the goods in preparation for selling them, or you can work on the shop floor as an assistant.

Brownies/Cubs, Youth Clubs or Primary Schools

Teaching in schools as a part time assistant is an excellent way to gain some work experience. You can learn to work with children and at the same time you can improve your communication skills whilst teaching a subject that you like. This is an excellent opportunity which you can organise by yourself, or through your school. Not only can you make friends, you are given an important leadership role in their society and this is an excellent opportunity for those who like working with the youth.

Fundraising and Voluntary work overseas

Overseas charity work is becoming more common place as work experience carried out by prospective medical and dental students and will be an invaluable and enriching way to spend part of your summer. Although expensive and hard to set up, it is quite original and especially useful for those taking a gap-year. Common work includes going to countries in Africa and Asia with a charity or group to help with the aid efforts.

Specialist dentistry work experience companies exist such as Gap Medics, who offer dentistry work experience packages for students aged 16+ in India, Tanzania, Thailand and the Caribbean. There are other companies who also can arrange dental work experience for you abroad combined with an exciting travel experience too.

University Work Experience requirements and preferences

University Requirement and preferences
Barts and the London "We would expect that applicants will have undertaken some voluntary work experience in a caring/health environment and/or observation in a dental clinical setting. It is important for applicants to have a realistic appreciation of what a career as a health professional involves."
The University of Birmingham "Work experience (approximately 14 days or equivalent) in a general dental practice is required before completing the UCAS form. You will be required to declare your commitment, involvement and understanding of the need to be working for the benefit of others. You must also demonstrate an understanding of the empathy needed when dealing with different members of society, something that gives you an insight into working with people from a different background to your own."
The University of Bristol
Cardiff University
The University of Dundee "You need to have carefully investigated dentistry as a career and have undertaken some work shadowing with a general dental practitioner or community dentist. There is no prescribed length of time for this, but you should be able to tell us about your experiences in your personal statement. Your personal statement should show some evidence of other interests. (e.g. sporting, musical, community involvement etc)."
The University of Glasgow "All applicants must also have work shadowing experience preferably within a General Dental Practice setting. Applicants should have undertaken a minimum of 3 days work shadowing and maximum of 14 days prior to applying. Applicants with less than three days experience will not be invited to interview. The 3 day requirement does not necessarily mean that all contact time must be with the dentist, it should also include time with other members of the dental team as it is equally important to understand their roles." - Taken from [1]
Kings College, London "We would normally expect that applicants will have undertaken some voluntary work experience in a caring/health environment and/or observation in a dental clinical setting. It is important for applicants to have a realistic appreciation of what a career as a health professional involves. Any voluntary contribution to your community is taken into account, eg volunteer in a care home. We look for evidence that you have worked in a setting where you can interact with the general public eg in a pharmacy, check-out or restaurant."
The University of Leeds "Applicants should normally be able to report Dentistry work experience in at least one setting, but extensive experience in a variety of settings is desirable. It would be advantageous if details of the type of work experience (NHS and/or private practice, hospital etc) and its duration were provided. If attempts to secure work experience have been unsuccessful, there must be some reference to this in the Referee's statement."
The University of Liverpool "Work Experience Requirements: Evidence is required"
The University of Manchester "Applicants must have observed a dentist at work before applying. This must be a general dental practitioner as this is the role which most students fulfil on graduation. Applicants must undertake a minimum of two weeks work experience in a general dental practice. The personal statement must be specific about the duration of any dental work experience undertaken. If applicants wish to arrange additional work experience in a specialist area of dentistry, this will be beneficial. It is not necessary to have fulfilled the role of a dental nurse. The School is keen to find out what experience applicants have of working both as a member and a leader of a team. This does not have to be a school-based activity. It could be in connection with a part-time job, sport, volunteer work or religious community, for example."
Newcastle University "All applicants are required to have undertaken a minimum of two weeks' dental work experience prior to submitting their UCAS application. This should be carried out in a General Dental Practice, but other types of dental work experience may be considered."
Queen's University, Belfast "There should be evidence of commitment and motivation in the personal statement. This should include evidence of what the candidate has done to find out about Dentistry as a career. This can be demonstrated in a number of ways including: opportunities for observational experience in a clinical setting, attending Open Days at a Dental School, or undertaking voluntary work in a care setting. Participation in activities within or outside School demonstrating transferable skills such as leadership, empathy, teamwork and communication skills is also considered."
The University of Sheffield "Applicants who can demonstrate knowledge of the dental profession, what has attracted them to the profession and those who have researched the possible career opportunities will be given preference for interview. Applicants should have attended work experience placements within a general dental practice. The dental course and career is demanding and requires people who are self-motivated and have good time management. Applicants may demonstrate self motivation through on-going commitment to voluntary work, sports teams or other activities."

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