4 Types of Dental Careers

Dentistry is a challenging yet fast-changing vocation. This field is ridden with a diverse range of opportunities and is fascinated with the health and appearance of the oral cavity including your teeth, gums, and jaws. The first occupation that typically comes to mind when you envision an expert scavenging in your mouth is a dentist. And you’re not wrong. However, a general dentist is one of many dental professions that encompass the capacity of this dynamic field.

As we know it, dentistry has undergone significant change over the last few decades. What we have learned through self-discovery of the career is that providing dental care is a team responsibility and thankfully, the profession has settled to devolve responsibilities to a wider variety of team members.

If you are seeking to pursue a career in dentistry, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that options other than just a general dentist exist in this field. In fact, the roles and responsibilities of these dental care providers differ profoundly from one another, and so do their educational and licensing requirements.

Read along to uncover the four types of dentist careers that are available and decide which is the best fit for you.


We must kick off the list with the most familiar dental career. A dentist is a health professional that you commonly encounter when you step into a dental establishment. They are responsible for diagnosing and treating problems with their patient’s mouths. If becoming a dentist is what interests you, you’re given a wide assortment of options.

You may either work as a general practitioner or specialize in an area of dentistry like orthodontics, periodontics, endodontics, and many other government-recognized specialities.

Generally, you’ll be spending a total of six years (including one foundational year) preparing to be a dentist, out of which two years would be in preparation for college and four more at an accredited dental school. If you want to specialize, that’s one or two more years of doing a residency in that specific area.

Dentistry graduates initially begin employment as trainees in the NHS or the private sector.

Average starting professional salary: £31,000

Dental nurses

Dental nurses make crucial members of the dental team. They work alongside the dentist and provide hands-on assistance throughout a patient’s visit. Some of their duties include preparatory work such as sterilizing equipment, preparing and developing X-rays, taking impressions/molds of patients’ teeth, and also office duties like booking appointments.

They are also responsible for guiding the patients through their procedures and giving them instructions on oral hygiene and prophylaxis. In addition, some dental nurses are also capable of providing topical anaesthetic, sealant applications, and fluoride applications. They may also implement infection control procedures to protect the patients and staff at the practice.

You must hold a recognised qualification and be registered with the GDC if you are thinking of pursuing a career as a dental nurse. Post-qualification certificates in oral health education, conscious sedation and radiography are available. You may also train to be a dental hygienist or therapist in the future.

Average starting professional salary: £15,000

Dental therapists/hygienists

Dental hygienists work under the direct supervision of their commanding dentist. They are mostly employed to provide preventative dental care and usually take on more responsibility than a dental nurse. Their prime duties include performing dental cleanings, examining patients for potential signs of oral diseases (cancer screenings and gum disease), and providing preventative oral care to the patients.

They also educate the patients on ways to improve oral health. Simple duties like restorations (fillings), pre-formed crowns, and tooth whitening may also be permitted. Qualifications for a dental hygienist include a course that lasts for around three years. Some establishments also offer a combined course in dental hygiene and therapy that ultimately leads to a combined diploma.

Average starting professional salary: £23,000

Dental technicians

A dental laboratory technician manufactures prosthetics and other appliances based on the dentists’ specifications. They do not perform direct patient care. However, a clinical dental technician (CDT) is one who has undertaken additional training to provide limited treatment to the patients and can provide dentures to patients without teeth.

Most dental technicians receive on-the-job training from laboratories that specialise in manufacturing dental appliances. The available qualification for a CDT is the Diploma in Clinical Dental Technology.

Average starting professional salary: £18,000