Covid-19 and students starting BDS Dentistry course in 2021

Updated on 23 April 2022

Due to coronavirus restrictions, there is the possibility current students may have to complete an extra year of the BDS course. If this happens, we may have to defer applicants for 2021 to 2022.

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Dentistry is severely affected by the precautions that are being taken to control coronavirus.

In addition to social distancing, measures needed to allow safe dental treatment have reduced patient throughput by up to 80% across all sectors.

These precautions are likely to be in place for many months to come. This will reduce the opportunities for dental students to gain face-to-face clinical experience. This is a critical component of BDS Dentistry courses.

It is unclear when we will be able to return to more normal levels of delivery for both clinical service and teaching. Any further surges in Covid-19 cases may result in new local or national lockdowns and further interruption to clinical care opportunities.

Why is dentistry more severely affected than other courses?

Many dental treatments use equipment that produce aerosols, for example dental high-speed drills.

Aerosols are believed to be one of the ways SARS-CoV-2 spreads from person to person. This means extensive new infection control measures are required to ensure that patients, staff, and students remain safe during dental treatment procedures. These measures dramatically reduce the number of patients who can be treated each day.

Potential extension of the course for current students

The BDS course is subject to the stringent requirements of our professional regulator, the General Dental Council, to allow those who have completed the degree programmes to join the GDC and practise legally in the UK.

The reduction in access to clinical care facilities is likely to impact on the ability of our existing senior students to gain the necessary skills and competencies for successful course completion and registration. We are working with the NHS to try and increase the level of clinical work we can do safely to avoid this.

In the worst-case scenario it may not be possible for our current students to gain the appropriate amount of clinical experience. If this happens, we may need to add an extra year to the BDS degree course to allow our existing students to complete the course to the required standard.

What this means for applicants for September 2021

If it becomes necessary to extend the course for existing students, we may need to defer entry of those selected to join the course in 2021 until 2022.

This is because dental training facilities do not have the physical capacity to accommodate double years of students. This situation could affect applicants at all Scottish Dental Schools.


Rest assured that we will do everything we can over the coming months to support all students to progress within the normal timeframe.

However, we believe that it is very important, in the spirit of transparency, that you are aware of the potential impact on dental training programmes of the Covid-19 restrictions.


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