Skills and Things You Need
to Know to Become a Dentist

See also: Careers in Healthcare

Entering the rewarding field of dentistry takes more than just a desire to help others and an affinity for the medical profession. The pathway to becoming a skilled dentist involves the mastery of specific competencies, the acquisition of knowledge on various subjects, and a deep understanding of what it takes to use dentist equipment effectively.

This article highlights some of the skills and knowledge you need to become a successful dentist, and is especially aimed at budding dental professionals in the UK.

Academic Foundations

Before you even step into dental school, it's important to establish a strong academic foundation. A science-heavy undergraduate degree is often the best starting point, with an emphasis on biology, chemistry, and physics. Mathematics is also crucial as it facilitates a better understanding of concepts like dental measurements and drug dosages.

Entering Dental School

In the UK, the journey towards becoming a dentist involves earning a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) or Bachelor of Dental Science (BSc) from a General Dental Council (GDC) accredited dental school. Dental school is where you'll start to learn the more practical aspects of dentistry, including the use of various dentist equipment and the appropriate terminologies.

Manual Dexterity

Dentistry is a field that requires excellent manual dexterity. A dentist's work is often intricate and occurs in a small space. The ability to perform detailed work with your hands, using dentist equipment such as handpieces and other instruments, is crucial. Regular practice can enhance your dexterity, but an initial affinity for detailed, hands-on tasks can be advantageous.

Interpersonal Skills

Dentistry isn't just about treating teeth; it's also about dealing with people. Good dentists are great communicators and listeners. They can explain complex dental procedures in simple, understandable language and show empathy when dealing with anxious patients. They also need to effectively communicate with other members of their dental team, ensuring smooth operation in the dental office.

Aesthetic Sense

A keen aesthetic sense is vital for a dentist. Whether it's creating a set of dentures that look natural, aligning teeth for a perfect smile, or matching a crown perfectly to existing teeth, a sense of aesthetics can make the difference between a good and a great dentist.

Understanding of Business Principles

Many dentists, especially those in private practice, need a good understanding of business principles. This includes knowledge of how to manage a budget, understanding marketing principles to attract and retain patients, and knowing how to lead a team.

Lifelong Learning

The field of dentistry is always evolving with new research, techniques, and dentist equipment being introduced regularly. As a dentist, you need to commit to lifelong learning, regularly attending professional development courses, and staying updated with the latest research and technology.

Knowledge of Dentist Equipment

Understanding and being comfortable with dentist equipment is an essential part of being a dentist. These instruments range from diagnostic equipment like X-rays to treatment instruments such as handpieces. Each piece of equipment requires knowledge of its use, maintenance, and safety procedures.

Patience and Endurance

One often overlooked aspect of being a successful dentist is having a high level of patience and endurance. Dental procedures can be time-consuming and require meticulous precision. As a dentist, you'll often find yourself working long hours, sometimes under pressure, and may have to deal with unforeseen challenges, like difficult procedures or anxious patients. Being able to keep your composure, maintain a steady hand with your instruments, and exhibit patience throughout long procedures is crucial. Furthermore, the physical aspect of the job shouldn't be underestimated. Dental professionals spend a significant amount of time on their feet and in static positions, which demands good overall physical endurance.

Emotional Intelligence

As a dentist, you'll frequently encounter patients experiencing anxiety or fear related to dental procedures. This is where emotional intelligence comes into play. The ability to perceive, understand, and manage the feelings of your patients is an invaluable skill. Patients who feel understood and reassured are more likely to follow through with necessary procedures and return for regular check-ups. Moreover, emotional intelligence will also help you interact effectively with your staff and other healthcare professionals, fostering a more productive and harmonious working environment.

Problem-Solving Skills

In addition to the extensive technical skills required, dentistry also demands excellent problem-solving abilities. Each patient presents a unique set of challenges - from diagnosing complex oral health issues to determining the most effective treatment plans. This process requires an analytical mindset, coupled with a sound understanding of dental science and the ability to think on your feet. Dentists must use their problem-solving skills daily, whether they're figuring out why a patient is experiencing discomfort or how to restore a damaged tooth while preserving its function and appearance.

Ethical and Legal Understanding

Finally, it's essential for any dentist to have a comprehensive understanding of the ethical and legal aspects of dentistry. As a healthcare professional, a dentist is bound by certain laws and ethical guidelines to protect the interests and rights of their patients. This includes informed consent, confidentiality, and a commitment to doing no harm. In the UK, the General Dental Council (GDC) sets out standards for dental professionals, including principles of ethical practice. These principles serve as a roadmap for handling ethical dilemmas that can arise in everyday practice. Moreover, keeping abreast of legal changes and updates within the dental industry is essential, ensuring that you always operate within the bounds of the law.


Dentistry is a demanding yet rewarding career, requiring a unique blend of skills and knowledge. It involves mastering manual dexterity, developing excellent interpersonal skills, honing an aesthetic sense, understanding business principles, and above all, a commitment to lifelong learning. The road to becoming a dentist is a long one but armed with the right information and a solid grasp of dentist equipment, it's a journey well worth taking.

Therefore, those who aspire to become dentists should strive to develop these diverse skills, embodying the delicate balance of art, science, and empathy that lies at the heart of dentistry.

About the Author

Miles Robinson is an accomplished journalist, well-known for his in-depth reporting and analysis in the field of dental health and medicine. His insightful reporting on innovative dental treatments, public dental health policies, and trends in oral health care has made him a respected voice in the industry. Miles has a knack for translating complex medical jargon into accessible, engaging narratives that reach a wide audience.