Dentistry vs. Medicine: Which Is Right For You?

Deciding between dentistry vs. medicine comes down to several important questions. Make sure you ask these things and get the decision right!

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7 Important Questions To Answer About Dentistry vs. Medicine

Making the decision between dentistry vs medicine isn’t easy. Both fields overlap often and each plays an important (and prestigious) role when it comes to solving and treating healthcare issues.

So what’s best to choose between the two?

Thinking about the major pros and cons of each is a great place to start…

Pros– Excellent work life balance
– Opportunity to own your own business
– Shorter Training
– “More prestigious”
– Varied
– Diverse specialisms
Cons– Competitive
– Less variation
– Longer training
– Lower initial earnings

We’ll go into each of these in more depth later in this article.

Here’s what else you’ll learn:

  • How dental education compares to medical
  • What’s more competitive
  • How much money you can make doing either job
  • Which has a better work-life balance

I’m convinced answering the questions explored in this article can help you make this tough decision. And I should know! It’s something I’ve thought deeply about myself when weighing up the two options.

Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.

Dental School vs. Medical School

There’s a lot of similarity between dentistry and medicine at university level. Both are rigorous subjects where learning the core sciences is essential. While each involves a lot of practical study.

No matter where you go, you’ll have to be entirely committed and dedicated to make it through either course.

Length of studies

Winner: Dentistry (six years)

In terms of how long it takes to reach the end of study and training for each profession, dentistry wins out.

Here’s how the path looks becoming a fully-qualified dentist in the UK:

  • Five-year dentistry degree
  • 12-month dental foundation training
  • Minimum of 250 hours Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training every five years (Source)

And here’s how it looks becoming a doctor in the UK:

  • Five-year medicine degree
  • Two-year foundation training
  • 5 years plus specialist training (varies by specialty)

Note: There are Graduate Entry pathways that can speed both these processes up.

As you can see, thinking about how long you want to be in training is hugely important when it comes to deciding between dentistry vs medicine.

Not everyone is cut out for the decade long training it takes to become a doctor!

Which is more difficult?

When it comes to how hard both subjects are to study, there isn’t a massive amount of difference. In the pre-clinical years at least, there is a lot of overlap between content.

Dentists have to know anatomy, physiology and pharmacology etc. similarly to medics. Although there is greater emphasis on the facial area, mouth and teeth obviously.

Don’t be fooled into thinking one is any “easier” than the other!

Entry requirements for Dentistry vs. Medicine

Getting onto a dental or medical course in the UK is fairly similar but maybe medicine is the more difficult.

Here’s why…

  • Medicine candidates (usually) need five GCSEs at A* or A level (in English and maths)
  • 3 A levels at AAA or AAB in chemistry and/or biology, mathematics or physics (and two further highers)
  • A high medical admissions test (UCAT or BMAT) score
  • Great personal statement

Compared to dental candidates who need:

  • Five GCSE passes (including Science, Maths and English)
  • 3 A Levels at AAA or AAB in chemistry and biology (plus another subject)
  • A good UCAT score (depending on where you apply)

So, at a quick glance, although both are exceptionally demanding, maybe getting into dentistry is a touch easier.

Which is more competitive?

Winner: Dentistry (fewer places)

Medicine has fewer applicants per year (ranging from 10-18:1 applicants to places) than dentistry (15:1). As a result, dentistry is the more competitive course of the two (Source) owing to the fact it has fewer places (on average).

Choosing between the two, you’ll want to consider how much you’re willing to compete against those odds given that both are tough.

Studying medicine or dentistry via Medconnect Europe at our partner universities is easy. You won’t have to fight against those odds. Check out our academics section for more info.

How much do doctors & dentists make in the UK?

Winner: Dentistry (higher potential earnings)

Obviously a big question you’re going to want to think about is money.

In terms of lifetime earning potential (due to shorter training periods) dentists earn more in the UK than doctors.

Here’s why:

  • Dentists start earning as soon as they’re qualified (happens before doctors)
  • More scope for private sector work earlier (often more lucrative than public)
  • NHS dentists make between £38 to £110K depending on where they work
  • Private dentists (business owners) can make £130K plus per year

Compare that to the earnings of UK doctors (Source: NHS Careers):

  • Foundation year doctors earn between £28K to £32K in first two years post-graduation
  • Specialist trainees make between £37K to £48K
  • Consultant doctors annual earnings range between £78K to £105K per year

After considering that many consultant doctors also work in the private sector there isn’t a huge difference between potential earnings. But perhaps dentistry gets the slight edge.

Useful to know if that’s important to you!

What skills do you need to be a doctor or a dentist?

Aside from good knowledge of the sciences, both professions are dependent on the following skills:

  • Effective communication
  • Leadership
  • Bedside manner
  • Problem-solving and critical-thinking

Where dentistry is largely dependent on things like dexterity, precision and eyesight to do a lot of hands-on work, some areas of medicine (specifically surgery) call on similar skills.

The role of a doctor is perhaps more diverse though (there are a ton of specialisms). Because of that, you can expect to pick up more skills in medicine than perhaps the average dentist would.

So ask yourself; what things are you keen to learn?

Dentistry vs Medicine: Work-life balance

Winner: Dentistry

Dentistry is usually considered to be the better lifestyle choice between the two jobs. That’s because the work is more specific, with less need for unsociable working hours.

One thing to think about here however is that it’s entirely possible to have a good work-life balance in medicine too. Pick a “lifestyle specialty” like dermatology and psychiatry, for example, and you can avoid a lot of the late and weekend shifts that put some people off.

Travis West’s video has a lot of good info on the lifestyle differences between the two…

Becoming a GP is one way to strike a healthy work-life balance in medicine on a par similar to dentistry.

Think about how each job would fit with the other aims you have in life.


If you’re still undecided about which job you’d rather go for, a great idea would be to try shadowing both a doctor and a dentist (if you have the chance).

Doing so can help give you more insight into the nature and role of each career and which one could be the best fit.

In the meantime, hopefully, this article has shown you some of the most important things to think about when it comes to choosing between dentistry vs medicine.

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