top of page

Working in UK as a Dentist -UK 1

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

The 4 common obstacles for working in the UK are

1. Visa

2.Registration with the GDC

3. Vocational Training Equivalence (VTE) /Performers List Validation by Experience (PLVE)

4.Finding a Job


  • The biggest obstacle to come to the UK is Visa - if you can solve this issue, then it's a battle half won. People in the healthcare like doctors, nurses, audiologist are all well sought after as there is a huge shortage and will be easier for these people to get jobs, especially if you are ready to initially work in the more rural area of the country. Getting a visa is not easy and I would advise you to get all the information you can by your own research, before relying on someone who says they know. Use registered and well-known agents for helping with visa applications as they know the exact formats and that need to be done correctly and it will be well worth spending the extra money.

  • For writing your exams you should normally get Visit Visa - just have all the paperwork ready before you apply for the exam as you do not want to waste precious time 'gettings papers ready' once you get an exam date. After passing your exams getting a visa is the biggest hurdle that stands in front of you.

  • ​Getting a work visa is easy for jobs mentioned on the ' Occupation Shortage list'. You will need a Tier 2 visa requiring an employer to sponsor the applicant. If your spouse can get a work visa then it may be easier for you to move to the U.K.  than as a dentist. (Please bear in mind that this list keeps changing and is always being updated, so kindly keep checking it).

  • Another option a 'Work Visa' is if there are dentist jobs advertised and none from the UK /EU has applied for it (so jobs still showing which are 3 months old on different websites), then the potential employer can submit a work visa application in your name. This is a very difficult process for the employers, I know only very few people who are able to do this for you here (some hospitals and practice owners with many practices / corporates) and usually, you are contract bound for up-to 3 years with them. 

  • Another option is to get a student visa - but that has additional expenses, but now that the 'post-study work visa' scheme is opened up, once you join any course you / your spouse could stay back and make your network and connections and even start work in the 2 years (obviously after passing relevant exams here) while you find someone to sponsor your work visa.

  • I know someone who has come to the UK on a student visa, completed the ORE, completed the MCLinDent course from KCL, did all the paperwork needed to get herself on the specialist list on the GDC ( a feat people from the UK who finished similar course has not been able to achieve!)  and then got a work visa to move here. The disadvantages are that you are tied to the employer and the salary that will be given initially may not be good. But if you are motivated enough - SKY IS THE LIMIT!!

  • We even hear stories of the point-based (used to be called HSMP -Highly skilled migrant programme when we migrated in 2004 ) system is going to be re-established by Jan 2021, wherein you can apply for a visa based on your education, experience, shortage of the occupation, money earned in the years prior to the application. All details would be found on the UK Government website.


2. Registration with the GDC

A. Recognised Degree

 The graduates from these colleges need not do any conversion exams and be eligible for direct registration. These are from some of the colleges from countries with a similar curriculum as the UK-  like Australia, New Zealand, Canada etc.

B. Exempt Degree​ 

You may be 'Exempt ' if you an are an EEA national / spouse of EEA national with EEA working in the EEA region.

If you are entitled to be treated as an exempt person, this does not mean that you are entitled to automatic recognition of your qualifications, this does not lead to automatic registration and does not “exempt” you from the ORE. It gives you the option of applying under the route of an individual assessment in addition to applying for the ORE.

C. Conversion Exams

These are the exams to be taken by most dental graduates to prove that the knowledge and skill levels are at par with the graduates qualified from universities in the UK.

I came to the UK in 2005, there was an acute shortage of dentist in the UK at the time, and the govt/ royal college came to India to conduct the first part of the IQE (conversion exams at the time) in India to encourage dentist to move to the UK. There were about 400 -500 of us who came to the UK at that time.

Since then the exam has changed from 3 parts to 2 parts exams - called ORE by GDC and LDS by the RCS. As it stands now you need to register with the GDC all details are given on their website. The different ways to register are as follows. (both exams are explained in detail in the relevant pages.

1. Overseas Registration Exam - ORE - conducted by the GDC

2. Licence in Dental Surgery -LDS exam -conducted by the Royal College of Surgeons

Preparing for ORE/LDS the biggest thing you need is a support group, find others in a similar situation to you and get into the different groups and find study partners for it. I shall give you details on another blog.

D. Temporary Registration 

 This is if you get a job in a hospital (mostly in OMFS) as an SHO / as a research fellow/teaching you /community dentistry, you can register initially for 1 year and upto 5 years as a temporary registration. These jobs are not easy to get, but nothing is impossible - it's being at the right place at the right time. The best option to get into these is to try and look at hospitals in remote areas in the UK, where they find it hard to get dentists to stay. You can either contact consultants there directly and ask to go do an observership in the department (possibly on a visit visa).

​Another option is to come to do research /teaching institutions (depending on your C.V and your contacts. 

​3. Vocational Training Equivalence VTE /Performers List Validation by Experience -PLVE

Vocational Training (VT) is very similar to the 1-year internship in India, but instead of hospital rotation, hereafter BDS all students have to do a VT, done mostly in general practices, although some part of the rotation is now done in hospitals.  For you to completely understand VT, you need to understand how the dentistry works here in the UK. Practices can either be NHS/ mixed / Private.

Private is private - as in most countries.NHS is the government-funded practice. So each practice is allocated a certain number of  UDA (unit of dental activity), so each practice is bound by contract to provide an allocated amount of service to their population. The UDA value of an area is depending on the needs of it - so a high caries area - the UDA value would be more. The patients all across the UK pay the same amount for any treatment categorised into bands.

Band 1 - is examination and scale and polish

Band 2 - is any number of filling, RCT, extractions 

Band 3 - any treatment requiring lab work like - dentures/crowns.

On an average - one dentist working 5 days a week can do between 5000 - 8000 UDA per annum. And the average UDA value would be 20 pounds /UDA for practice and most practices work on a 40- 50 % split for their associates. Mixed practices are when they do some NHS and some private - which is most practices in the UK.

VTE/PLVE is done to get a VT number which is needed to get a 'Performer number' to get onto a performers List. Performers List is the list maintained by the BSA (Business Service Authority ) for dentists eligible to work for the NHS and to be able to carry out NHS work. You also need a performer number to work in ' community dental services ' as a salaried dentist by the NHS and in some areas, this may be easier to get a post, but the earning would be less than that of a general dentist.

You don't need VTE /PLVE if you get a private job, unfortunately, most private practices like to see some UK experience before giving you a job unless you have a good portfolio / exceptional CV. But I would strongly urge you to contact practices in remote areas where your chances of finding a job are better.

 For helping you understand some info about NHS dentistry you can refer to the book 'Understanding NHS dentistry'.

4. Getting a Job

Once all this is finished, getting a job is still quite a hurdle.

I suggest as you prepare for your exam keep in mind that - contacts is the best thing you need.

Start going for any hands-on CPD courses and meet consultants/dentist in different departments in the local hospital(mostly OMFS/Restorative Dentistry) / teaching institutions and GDP.

Go to all the local area study groups - meet dentist / DCP in the area - as dentistry is a small world and most people knows each other. Join local BDA groups/study groups /local deanery study groups as a student.

Another trick that always works is 'OBSERVERSHIP' go to see the different  GDP in your local area / Hospital registrar or consultant, and ask them if you can observe them practice dentistry. This is also the best exam preparation you can get, as the instruments from a self aspirating syringe system to the single-use matrix bands may all be novel to you. Also important is the cross-infection rules, the practice complaints, the policy and health and safety policy, HTM01-05, fire safety could be better understood when it is seen in action at practice than learning it from a book.  Also improving your patient management skill and staff interaction is very crucial for a successful career

The most common big corporates now are 'my dentist ' and 'BUPA'. I work for 'my dentist' and I have a very good experience, the practice manager at the 'Ely" practice is amazing.... and they are generally known to look after the staff quite well. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these and initially may be working for a corporate may be a good idea, you can try and contact recruitment directly with these companies website.

I shall list some of the common websites and recruitment agents below.

8. MBR

​Reading suggestions

  1. An online survey done by  465 ORE dentist published in 2019 

  2. Information overseas dentists


bottom of page