Dentistry is a rapidly evolving profession. Advances in technology, such as the introduction of novel materials, have increased the scope of today’s dentistry to correct defects of facial appearance and function. There is also more emphasis on treating patients as individuals with individual needs, along with a strong trend towards prevention rather than cure of dental disease.
Our Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree consists of five terms of pre-clinical studies followed by three years and one term of clinical work. The programme incorporates current advances in dentistry and provides an up-to-date teaching structure that takes into account the opinions of past and present students.
This highly integrated interdisciplinary programme also benefits from excellent library and computer facilities, as well as clinical teaching in the Birmingham Dental Hospital, which has one of the largest outpatient attendances in the UK. Here, too, are excellent equipment and instruments for your practical work.
First and second years
The pre-clinical programme in your first and second years is modular in form and based on the interdisciplinary study of the different systems of the human body. Subjects include: anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, oral biology and pharmacology. The emphasis is on small group teaching and self-learning.
There are modules on Biological Sciences and on the Principles of Learning. You also take modules on Clinical Dentistry and Behavioural Science in preparation for your first contact with patients, which takes place early in the third year.
The last term of the second year is spent, largely, developing the practical and academic skills related to treating your first patients. This involves working on manikins in the Phantom Head laboratory and preparing teeth for filling with restorative materials. Students also work with and on their peers within the year, to practise taking their medical histories, examining their teeth and gums and learning about giving local anaesthesia. This practical work is supported by the academic study of radiography, oral pathology, restorative dentistry and prosthodontics.
Third, fourth and fifth years
You begin treating, under supervision, your own patients in the first term of your third year. Your clinical teaching at the Birmingham Dental Hospital also gives you a chance to gain extensive and varied real-world experience.
The clinical programme covers specialist subjects such as paediatric dentistry, restorative dentistry, dental prosthetics, and oral medicine and surgery. You also extend your practical experience with the clinical practice programme. Here, you take responsibility for your own patients’ treatment by running what amounts to your own mini-practice within the Dental Hospital. In this way you learn to apply specialist teaching within the framework of whole-patient care and teamwork.
Alongside your clinical work you continue with programmes in oral biology and pathology. As part of your study of medicine and surgery you spend some of your time in residence at a general hospital. You learn about the social and psychological side of patient care while developing your interpersonal and communication skills. You also gain an appreciation of the factors involved in controlling dental disease, together with epidemiology, statistical techniques, and key ethical and medico-legal issues that surround the practice of dentistry.
Our practitioner attachment scheme ensures that you also spend time with general dental practitioners. Visits to specialist dental units and the community dental service are also organised separately.As you near the end of your clinical course you have time to pursue your own elective programme of study – a topic of personal interest, which you research on your own. This may provide an opportunity for you to study for a while abroad.
Your final year of study consists of a common core of academic work and clinical dental practice. You may also select a special study module for in-depth work.
Teaching and assessment
Teaching is delivered mostly in small groups throughout the programme. Specialist groups may be as few as four to 12 students, while clinical practice is usually in groups of around 20. Tutorial staff give you immediate feedback on your clinical work and we discuss and mark your treatments on the spot.
You also have written examinations and tests, along with continuous assessment. Our aim is to enable you to monitor your progress at all times. You have a personal tutor to provide academic guidance and support, and a welfare tutor to support your personal needs at every stage in your university career.
Dentistry is a focused course and, almost without exception, graduates go into general practice, particularly in the first few years after graduation. There are opportunities in community dental clinics, industry, hospitals and universities – but all as dentists. The focus of all undergraduate dental students is to be practising dentists and therefore the career pathway is dictated from the beginning of the course.
Selection of students
Dentistry is an extremely popular subject at Birmingham. During our selection process academic excellence is only one criterion; it is vital to be able to show that you are highly motivated towards a career in dentistry and possess other qualities required of a dentist. You will be required to declare your commitment, involvement and understanding of the need to be working for the benefit of others. You must also demonstrate an understanding of the empathy needed when dealing with different members of our society.
Our system is designed to find students keen to acquire the knowledge to carry out clinical treatments demanding a high degree of skill and precision. We look carefully, therefore, not only at your academic record and potential, but consider fully your confidential report and non-academic interests and achievements.
We stress that you must, before applying, have had some work experience in a general dental practice so that you are fully aware of the opportunities, changes and demands of the profession. We interview prospective students in an informal, friendly manner for about 15 minutes and give you a chance to tour the Dental Hospital and talk to some of our current students.
This degree is recognised by the profession’s governing body, the General Dental Council, for inclusion in the UK register. When on the register you are automatically permitted to practise.
International Baccalaureate Diploma: Minimum 36 points including HL Chemistry and HL Biology. See also general entry requirements
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