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Dental Regulation in the UK

Who regulates the dental profession in the UK?

The General Dental Council (GDC) is the organisation which regulates dental professionals in the United Kingdom.  All dentists, dental nurses, dental technicians, clinical dental technicians, dental hygienists, dental therapists and orthodontic therapists must be registered with the GDC in order to work in the UK.

What does the GDC do?

The GDC aims to protect the public and maintain standards in the profession by 

  • registering qualified professionals
  • setting standards of dentistry and conduct
  • assuring the quality of dental education
  • ensuring professionals keep up-to-date and register continuing professional development
  • helping patients with complaints about a dentist or dental care professional and regulating dentists by taking action against them should their standards be proven insufficient
  • working to strengthen patient protection


What are the GDC Registers and Lists?

The GDC keeps up-to-date registers of dentists and dental care professionals who meet the professional standards the GDC sets. The dental care professional s covered are:

  • dentists
  • clinical dental technicians
  • dental hygienists
  • dental nurses
  • dental technicians,
  • dental therapists 
  • orthodontic therapists


Practising dentistry or using one of these titles without being GDC registered is against the law in the UK.

In addition the GDC maintains Specialists Lists: these are dentists who have followed an extensive and approved programme of further training in a particular branch of dentistry and are entitled to call themselves a Specialist in that area. For more information see The Good Dentist Guide to Dental Specialists.

As a member of the public you can search the GDC Registers to confirm whether your dentist, dental care professional or specialist is registered. To visit the GDC website click here. [link to]

What are the criteria for registration?

The professional must hold appropriate qualifications or experience.  For those who qualified in the UK this means they must have successfully completed five years of undergraduate training and been awarded a Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree (BDS or BChD). For those who qualified overseas, it will depend upon the nature of the qualification and the country in which they qualified, and they may have to take an overseas registration examination before being approved for registration.

Once registered, the professional must keep skills and knowledge up to date by completing a set number of hours of continuing professional development in a five year period. For a dentist this is 250 hours; for a dental care professional 150 hours.

Registrants must agree to abide by the GDC code of behaviour; maintaining standards helps protect patients but also protects the professional by making it clear what is expected of them.

All GDC registrants are also required to make sure they have adequate and appropriate professional indemnity arrangements in place so that patients can claim any compensation they may be entitled to.

What if a dentist or dental professional falls short?

If serious doubts arise about a dental professional’s fitness to practice due to ill health, concerns over conduct or performance, the GDC is empowered by Parliament to either remove them from the Register, or restrict what they can do professionally. These powers cover all registered dentists and dental care professionals whether they’re working in the NHS or in private practice. 



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