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Becoming a Dentist in the UK

by Alexandra Nikolaou

Are you a Dentist that has graduated from a Greek or an EU Institution? Are you also considering practicing in the UK? Then, this article is for you!! Here are some tips and important things to note. 

The UK is a very welcoming environment to any health care professional that decides to work in this country giving plenty of choices on how the individuals can shape their career path and find the right balance between work and personal life. Depending on your situation you can, for example choose to work full time or part time assuming this has also been agreed with your employer.

NHS Practitioner or Private Dentist?


But let’s start from the beginning. The first choice you will need to make is whether you wish to work
as a practitioner for the National Health System (NHS), as a private dentist or as a combination of both. Each route has its benefits but which one is the right one for you?


NHS should be your choice if you are a recent graduate that needs experience or still feels insecure or has never worked abroad before. It is a good choice for someone who wishes to hold less responsibility in the early stages of their career. On the other hand, NHS is renowned for the good pension benefits it provides to its registered practitioners. It surely is the best and safest way to start building a career and your finances, to cover your expenses and a way to familiarise with the business environment.


Private Dentistry is suitable for postgraduates, Dentists who are familiar with working abroad, are fluent in English and are confident that they understand how the health care system works in the UK. Do you know how to handle a patients’ complaint? If you know the answer to the previous question then most likely you will also know how to avoid one. Private Dentistry is much more demanding, more stressful but of course more profitable. Once you know the “ins and outs” of the system the choice to work in both sectors probably is the wisest combination.

What you will find different in the UK

- You will need to have insurance/ dental protection or otherwise indemnity that will cover you in case of a serious complaint. You will need it in order to become a member of the General Dentist Council (GDC) as you cannot work without it. The prices are much higher than what you would expect and you should prepare for the expenses before planning your budget. An example of an Indemnity Company is DDU/MDU.


- In Greece, if a patient is not happy with your services, he changes Dentist. In the UK, you are more likely to receive a legal complaint. Indemnity comes forward to take over your case and represents you. Be aware, as the price of your indemnity will rise in the year following a serious complaint. It is the exact reason, why Dentists in the UK pay extra attention in gaining experience on the topic of “patient communication“ in order to avoid such complaints. 


- Attending courses is compulsory. By attending lectures, conferences and workshops you earn CPD (Continuous Professional Development). You need to achieve a certain amount of CPD that are reviewed every 5 years. You can find all relevant information on the official GDC page.


Under NHS all treatments are divided in 4 bands.

1. Exam, Scale, X-Rays 

2. Extractions fillings

3. Any prosthetic work

4. Emergency treatment

Every band is assigned an amount of “points” called UDAs that you receive per treatment. You are paid by the NHS based on the UDA numbers delivered.


Band 1 = 1 UDA

Band 2= 3 UDA

Band 3=12 UDA

Band 4=1.2 UDA


The actual amount paid per UDA is then agreed with your employer. Usually it is in the range of £9 - £11 per UDA. Every NHS Dentist agrees to an annual contract with their employer on the expected level of UDAs to be delivered. The contract may range from 1000-10,000 UDAs. Be careful as sometimes it might be binding and if you under perform, your employer might deduct the UDA that you did not perform from your salary!  Do not commit to a contract with a large amount of UDAs. if you are not sure you can achieve them, as your performance does not only depend on your skills but equally on the amount of patients visiting the practice itself!

On the private side, the process is different and you agree directly with your employer the percentage of the earnings that you will receive. Irrespective of whether you work under an NHS contract or privately, you will be classed as self-employed so do not forget that you will be reliable of paying personal tax on your earnings. A reasonable earnings potential for a full time NHS dentist ranges, on average, anywhere between £50k – £95k. Private salaries have a much wider range but someone should expect to earn two or even three times more than NHS.



- You have to be an EU graduate.

- Apply for your National Insurance number.

- All your official documents must be translated in English and verified by a lawyer.You need to verify your knowledge of the English language by applying and passing the IELTS exam. Passing mark is 7 and above.

- After passing your exam, you can apply to GDC. The official GDC site will inform you how to apply, step by step, and will provide you with all the paper work that you are required to complete.

-  Once you are accepted you will receive your official registration number and you can start your “job search“. The easiest way is to look for vacancies online. Some sites to start with include,, or


Hint:  Do not necessarily target only London, especially if you are a recent graduate. You are more likely to get a better package outside London

- NHS Dentists have to apply for a performance number to gain entry to National Performer List right after they become employed by NHS. You can check the Primary Care Support England website for details and updates on the new service as the process is changing in the year 2018-19.  Private Dentists do not need to apply and can work freely without the PCT registration.


What I wish I Knew..

- You are highly dependent on the potential of the practise to attract new patients. If the practice does not have enough patients, you cannot generate UDA no matter how good you are. Make sure when attending an interview to check the practices books. If the other Dentists are fully booked then this is a good sign. If the diary has many gaps or it’s quite empty be extra careful as it might not the best opportunity for you.

When going for an interview remember you are also “interviewing” your employer as well. Make sure the environment is good and your nurse is qualified and not a trainee. Most important things to agree on is your UDA rate and your Annual Leave entitlement.

If you work for NHS there is some wait till you gain entry to the National Performer List. You can temporarily work privately or take a hygienists role while you wait

Apply to BDA which is the British Dental Association. It is a company that protects and works for the interest of Dentists and can always give you legal advice if needed. It can also provide you with guidance in respect to subjects such as maternity leave, pension and further professional development.

Setup a direct debit for your indemnity as the amount might be easier to pay monthly.

- Start saving for your taxes from the first salary that you receive.

Always keep an eye for courses / seminars that interest you.

If you decide to work for the NHS get accustomed with the NHSBSA compass system that is linked to the PCT and generates your earnings. You can stay on top of your earnings on a daily basis and you will know what to expect to receive at the end of each month.

Finally, commuting is normal!   If you live up to one hour away from your work -  its reasonable.

Alexandra Nikolaou

Dr Alexandra graduated in 2010 obtaining her MDDR Degree from the dental faculty of dentistry at the Charles University of Prague. She started her career when she was selected to complete a multi-disciplinary training at the 251 General Air Force Hospital In Athens. This training provided her with access to all the specialties of dentistry including Oral Surgery, Prosthodontics, Endodontics, Periodontology, and Orthodontics. Dr Alexandra moved to the United Kingdom in 2013 and since then she has been practicing as an Associate Dentist while holding staff position in multiple practices. During this time she developed an interest in the field of Aesthetic Dentistry,  and has since attended multiple seminars, including a certified course for Orthodontal Invisalign treatment in which she now specialises on. At present Dr. Alexandra works as an Associate at the Essex Family Dental practice in Essex providing NHS and private dental treatments

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