Bachelor of Dental Surgery - curriculum overview
The programme is carefully structured to ensure that, as a dental graduate, you will possess the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for safe practice and entry into your first clinical job as a Dental Foundation Year 1 dentist.

Whilst the majority of the five-year undergraduate BDS degree programme can be considered ‘core’ and provides essential knowledge and skills, there are also Special Study Units which means that you are able to study, in depth, selected areas which may be of special interest to you.

Effective teamwork is essential to the efficient delivery of dental care. Most of your learning will take place in small groups, which will prepare you for working in a team. Time for private study is built into the timetable, enabling you to take responsibility for your own learning by using the wide array of resources and learning support which is available.

Four main teaching themes are vertically and horizontally integrated across the programme.

These are:
  • Applied dental and scientific knowledge
  • Inter-professional engagement 
  • Clinical dental practice 
  • Personal and professional development.
Student learning is supported by the use of study guides which develop knowledge of oral health and oral disease and its causes by working through patient scenarios, identifying the knowledge, clinical reasoning and analytical skills needed to deal appropriately with each case. This enquiry-based learning takes place in a highly supported, blended learning environment incorporating e-learning, tutorials, self-directed learning, and plenary sessions.

Whether you are at the main teaching centre at University of Plymouth or engaged in clinical practice at one of the Dental Education Facilities across the south west of the peninsula, there are extensive e-learning, library and other facilities which include videos, CDs, DVDs, books, publications, access to electronic journals and facilities for telematic conferencing.

Years 1 and 2

Year One covers aspects of normal structure, function and behaviour and the scientific basis of these. It also focuses on dental health, prevention of dental disease and the underlying principles of personal and professional development. You will be introduced to the Simulated Dental Learning environment (SDLE) and the clinical environment to treat patients at an early stage.

You'll gain insight into the importance of team working in dentistry as you work as a dental nurse with senior students in the clinic. By the end of Year 1 you will be familiar and comfortable with the Clinical and Simulated Dental Environments.

In Year Two, you build on your foundations by dealing with common dental problems, as well as disease mechanisms being considered in much greater depth. In term one, training intensifies in the SDLE and in clinic, where you will be able to develop your communication skills under the close supervision of dental practitioners, bringing to life the experience, and skills, gained in the SDLE.

In a typical week you may be expected to attend: 

  • Six ‘theatre events’ known as plenaries, where you will meet experts in various fields
  • Two days clinical work in a healthcare setting in the community
  • Two structured enquiry-based learning sessions
  • Workshops and simulated dental experiences
  • Three interactive life sciences practical sessions studying biomedical sciences

You will also be expected to undertake additional clinical skills training which may involve anything from basic life support to ‘Intra-muscular injection’ in the Clinical Skills Resource Centre.

Clinical Practice Experience

As you progress through your degree programme your clinical exposure will increase. Extensive exposure to patients, who will display a variety of oral diseases, as well as systemic conditions, will underpin the development of your clinical skills. This experience will develop your ability to think and perform safely in the clinical environment.

You will:

  • Experience oral healthcare as it is delivered in primary care general practice
  • Learn from patients about the breadth of diseases and health problems in a community, and the effect of social, and environmental factors on oral disease
  • Understand through experience the wide ranging impact and importance of the dental team
  • Learn alongside, and from, experts in the healthcare community including doctors, nurses, social workers, hygienists, therapists, technicians, and other healthcare professionals

Years 3 and 4

One of the themes for Years Three and Four is to consolidate the learning of medically-related issues for the safe practise of dentistry. You'll be given an opportunity to learn about dentally relevant medical issues in patient-based demonstrations, hospital outpatient clinics, and accident and emergency departments.

Clinical activity will extend to three days each week in Year Four. For senior students, the work will embrace all of the aspects of dental care provision expected of a qualified dentist, and will give you experience in advanced restorative techniques.

You will gain first-hand experience of the role and services provided by specialists in primary and secondary care, spending time in specialist clinics such as restorative dentistry, oral surgery, maxillo-facial surgery and orthodontics.

Year 5

During Year Five you will spend four days in the primary dental care clinical environment and become much more confident with clinical situations, healthcare teams and the principal of practice both in the NHS and in private practice. You'll supplement your learning with Case Presentations, which are patient presentations designed to demonstrate that you are capable and confident in diagnosing, treatment planning and carrying out all the procedures necessary to provide optimal oral health care for patients.

You will be provided with information and guidance on your Dental Foundation Year (DF1), your first year of dental practice in the NHS upon graduation, and the school will support you through a series of careers events and guidance on the DF1 application process, interviews and plenaries during your preparation for registration with the General Dental Council.

We are committed to enhancing your managerial and leadership qualities. Senior students will delegate clinical work to junior dental therapy & hygiene students to share their knowledge of treatment planning. Senior students will also be instructed in the contemporary business aspects of running a dental practice within the current NHS structure and work in our dedicated primary care practice.