BlogUniversityWhat It’s Like Studying a Bachelor of Dental Science (Honours) at UQ

What It’s Like Studying a Bachelor of Dental Science (Honours) at UQ

UQ Dentistry - Fact Sheet

If you love the idea of medicine meets creativity, meets people skills, then perhaps UQ Dentistry might be the degree for you!

UQ Dentistry is a challenging degree, but is also one that will allow you to engage many different skills. You will be giving medical attention to patients, solving complex issues, and sculpting tiny teeth. 

Sound interesting? Keep reading as we break down exactly what this degree is like! 

What is a Bachelor of Dental Science (Honours) at UQ?
Core Units for UQ Dentistry
How to Get into Dentistry at UQ
What’s the Teaching Format?
What’s the Faculty and Culture Like?

What is a Bachelor of Dental Science (Honours) at UQ?

This degree will have you on task to be a qualified dentist via one of Australia’s best dental schools. You will learn all there is to know about dentistry, oral medicine, oral surgery, prosthodontics, endodontics and more. 

You’ll be learning from key practitioners in their fields, and being made as prepared as possible to help others. 

Honours

Honours is already embedded into this degree, with research units woven throughout the course. In fact, course structure makes it impossible to enrol in or complete this degree without doing Honours.

There are many benefits to this. You get to do an Honours thesis which you can submit to research journals — you also have plenty of time to do this research, because Honours isn’t one dedicated year at the end. Instead, your five years will flow in a way most beneficial for your learning! 

Career Paths 

Dentistry sets you up for a fairly direct career path, however there are a few things you can choose from. These include becoming a: 

  • Dentist 
  • Dental practice owner
  • Community health officer
  • Dental researcher

Though if you choose to take on postgrad studies in order to specialise, you may see yourself working as any of the following:

  • Endodontist
  • Orthodontist
  • Prosthodontist
  • Paediatric dentist
  • Periodontist
  • Oral surgeon
  • Maxillofacial surgeon
  • Oral medicine specialist
  • Dental radiologist

…and many more!

Core Units for UQ Dentistry

As we have already mentioned, this is a very specific degree. Most of your subjects are set in place and very stream-lined from the start.

There isn’t much timetabling flexibility for dental subjects (though there is some for the more general science subjects). As such, it is also very challenging to take a gap year during this course. If you’re starting, be ready to see it through in one go! 

In first year, you will start with quite theoretical subjects before progressing into more heavily-practice based classes.

There are also two main types of classes in this degree. This first is general science classes, which are taken with other students at the main UQ campus, St Lucia. The second is specialist dental courses, which are taken within the designated dental clinics and simulation clinics.

We’ll now break down the different core units you’ll take each year!

First Year

  • Dental Practice 1: This course introduces you to the dental clinic. You will learn about preventative dental practice that keeps the mouth healthy. You will also learn patient communication, and start practising on models. This course blends with Dental Science 1.
  • Dental Science 1: This is a theoretical based dental course that blends with Dental Practice 1
  • Integrated Anatomy and Physiology: In this general science subject, you will be introduced to the structural features of major tissues and organs to understand their function. You’ll look at many different systems, including the nervous systems, skin structure and pulmonary structure.
  • Professions, People and Healthcare: This is a general science subject that focusses on multidisciplinary practice and explains how the Australian healthcare system works in the context of the world.

Some of the other general science subjects you’ll take include Introductory Cellular Physiology and Chemistry for Pharmacy & Dentistry.

Second Year

  • Dental Science 2: As the follow on from the first subject, this course will teach you about minimal intervention dentistry. You will get a detailed understanding of scientific concepts that underpin this, including epidemiology and pathology.
  • Dental Practice 2: As a continuation of the first subject, this course blends with Dental Science 2 and as a practical component where you start seeing patients as early as your second semester.
  • Integrated Physiology & Pharmacology for Dentistry: This course teaches you about all of the relevant drug types and mechanisms related to dentistry giving you a solid foundation for treatment planning in future years.
  • Immunology & Microbiology for Dentistry: This subject will teach you about infectious agents and host response. You will understand how to treat infection, look at pathogens and get a good understanding of human disease. 
  • Biochemistry & Molecular Biology for Dentists: This subject will integrate the physiological systems in biochemical and molecular contexts.
  • Head & Neck Anatomy for Dentistry: Learn about the anatomy of the head and neck in relation to this mouth. You will examine gross, microscopic and imaging perspectives. 

Third Year

  • Population Oral Health and Professional Practice: You will be provided with the basics for professionalism when practising as a dentist. This includes behaviour management, ethics and regulation of work. Most of this is taught through workshops and case bases. 
  • Dental Disciplines A: Here, you will be introduced to a range of specialist disciplines that stem beyond basic care. You will also learn about reading history, good note-taking, diagnosis and care plans. Most of this subject will occur in clinics starting with Prosthodontics where you will make dentures for your patients. 
  • Dental Practice 3A: This course is blended with Dental Disciplines A.
  • Research and Informed Practice: This is the first research course offered as part of the Honours component of your degree.
  • Dental Practice 3B: Continued on from Dental Disciplines A and Dental Practice 3A, this course is blended with Dental Practice B.
  • Dental Disciplines B: This is also a continuation of Dental Disciplines A and Dental Practice 3A, and is blended with Dental Practice 3B.

Fourth Year

  • Population Oral Health and Professional Practice 2: Here you will learn about dental ethics and good practices. Understanding the legal side of the field such as licensing, professional indemnity insurers, dental governing bodies and many other important guidelines will set you up for your Year 5 clinical placements.
  • Advanced Dental Disciplines A: In this course, you will develop more skills in note-taking, assessment, care plans and more. You will also look at how to manage specialities such as prosthodontics and paediatric dentistry. You will be looking after patients with fairly complex needs. 
  • Dental Practice 4A: This course is blended with Advanced Dental Disciplines A.
  • Research Informed Practice 2: In this course, you will begin selecting your Research supervisor and choosing your research group members. You will begin finding a research topic, making a plan, and assigning tasks.
  • Dental Practice 4B: In this course, you will work with previously-acquired competencies to develop your ability to respond to complex needs. Each week, you will have 6 hours of patient care.
  • Advanced Dental Disciplines B: This course is blended with Dental Practice 4B.

Fifth Year

  • Research Informed Practice 3: In this course, you will follow your project plan that was created in previous research courses. You will conduct research with your group members, analyse the data, write the research report and present your findings.
  • Dental Practice 5A: This course is blended with Dental Practice 5B.
  • Dental Practice 5B: In this final subject, you will ensure you have developed all skills for general dental practice in real clinics. You will be rotated through clinics, including community and regional, to ensure you can provide comprehensive care. You will be on placement for 22 weeks. 

Internships and Placements 

We have just talked a little about placements for UQ Dentistry. As this is a very practical degree, you do need to be practise and develop your skills on real patients. 

From second year, you will be working in the Oral Health Centre throughout different subjects, which acts like a placement. This occurs from halfway through second year until the end of fourth year.

In the last part of fourth year, you will take on a 2-4 week placement at an external clinic. You can travel internationally for this, provided you source a place — if you can’t find your own placement, the dental school offers some, although they are competitive.

In your final year of study, you will have 22 weeks of compulsory placement in varied locations. UQ matches each student up with different practices, which you will find out about shortly before you leave. There is also sustained contact with the university throughout this time. 

On top of this, many students source their own jobs as dental assistants throughout their study. Here, you will get to shadow experienced dentists and learn from them in a practical means. 

There are also some general internships available to all UQ students who apply directly. One is UQ Ventures, which allows young entrepreneurs to work with professionals and build a brand. These are great to add to your CV! 

How to Get into Dentistry at UQ 

The ATAR for entry into this course is 99.95, making it an incredibly competitive degree! You also need to have taken Queensland General English and Chemistry (or equivalent). Biology is not required, but is highly recommended. 

If you are eligible, you must also sit the UCAT. This is used to determine which students are actually offered places in the course. It’s certainly a rigorous degree to gain entry to. 

Alternate Pathways

If you think you’d like to do Dentistry, but are concerned you won’t meet the ATAR, pre-reqs, or UCAT requirements, there are some ways around it. 

If all you’re missing is an English of Chemistry subject, you may sit a bridging course or STAT test. 

For most of us, though, we need a bit more of a boost. There are some adjustment factors available to students. The lowest accepted mark for 2021 was 95.45, which is 4 points below the official cut off. 

A great one to consider is the Subject Incentive Scheme. If you are maintaining a C grade in Specialist Maths, a language other than English or a university-level enrichment course, you can attain some bonus points. The maximum a student can be given is 5. 

You can check out all the adjustment schemes here. There is scope for bonus points if you’ve experienced financial hardship, are from a rural background or are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Identity. 

Scholarships 

UQ offers a number of scholarships that you can look into! 

A great thing to look into is the UQ Academic Scholarships Program. This offers up to $60,000 to high-achieving school leavers. There are three categories to choose from, so see which one fits you best. 

What’s the Teaching Format?

UQ Dental school is highly regarded, with practising and well-researched experts teaching classes. You may also be taught by final year or postgraduate students, who are on their way to being specialist experts. 

Ultimately, you’ll be in a degree that places a lot of emphasis on linear progression and really honing your skills!

Class Structure

In this degree, you will be working through some theoretical subjects, as well as pracs and labs, across semesters. 

As we mentioned before, classes are split into two different types. For specific dentistry subjects, students will have clinic, pre-clinic, lectures and tute classes.

Dental classes are held in the Herston Dental Campus. General science courses have pracs, lectures and tutes which are held in St. Lucia, the UQ main campus.

UQ Dentistry - Class Structure

Lectures 

For both types of subjects, lectures are the place where you learn all the fundamentals of these courses. You will be introduced to new topics, presented with ideas to explore, and learn theoretical concepts.

Lectures generally mean one person teaching a large group of students. They aren’t always compulsory, but are highly encouraged. If you choose to attend, there can be around 70 to 100 students for dental courses, with more than 200 students in general science courses.

Tutorials

In tutorials, you will have a chance to discuss what you have learnt in lectures. They are a place to engage with expert tutors and clarify things you don’t understand.

This is especially great for investigating challenging concepts that you may not know about yet. These classes are compulsory and typically have 20 to 30 students in attendance. 

Pracs 

For general science pracs, you may take on experiments or look at practical implications of what you have learnt in the lecture.

These classes are often broken into smaller table groups, but there’ll be around 20 to 30 students, with a supervisor monitoring the whole room.

In this degree, practical classes are conducted in laboratories where you will be doing experiments — make sure you have a lab coat, safety glasses!

Clinic and Pre-clinic 

Clinic and pre-clinic are like the prac equivalent for specific dental subjects. They can have as little as 6 students in attendance or as many as 100!

Pre-clinic is generally taken by students who are in first year or early second-year, however it can be used later in the degree for some teaching. In these classes, large groups of students are taught practical concepts on a fake head.

Magnetic teeth clip into the jaw, which you will learn on. You might be doing things like sculpting fillings, or cleans.

As you progress, you will be taken into the clinic with real patients. Your level of autonomy will increase throughout the degree, until you are treating complex patients on your own.

Students generally work in very small groups, or individually, with a supervisor. Sometimes you will work in pairs where one is the “dental operator” and the other is the “dental assistant”.

How much time is spent in class?

In this degree, students have roughly 25-30 contact hours a week. This can vary for different subjects.

Some larger, practical subjects have up to 6 hours in the clinic. Preclinic, clinic, pracs and some  tutorials are compulsory.

Generally, though, you will have enough time to work or complete activities outside of class. Lectures are recorded so you are not required to attend them in person. 

What are the assessments like? 

Assessments for this degree vary according to the class. 

For all classes, there will generally be a mid-semester and end of semester exam to ensure you understand all key information that has been taught. 

Dental science courses often have key checkpoints that you must pass before you move on. This may include a mini exam, successfully preparing fillings, or a wax carving assessment.

There are also many written assessments and presentations scattered into these subjects. 

Science courses often have quizzes and prac experiments. They all have exams like we’ve just discussed. 

Skills Learnt in this Degree

UQ Dentistry - Skills

Being a dentist involves many different types of skills. You will need to be able to time-manage, which is taught in university through a large course load. 

It’s also a creative career, as you need great dexterity and an eye for detail when molding fillings, colour matching or cleaning teeth. You also need good chairside manner to keep patients calm while you work. 

What’s the Faculty and Culture Like?

Dentistry at UQ has a tight-knit culture, with between 60 and 100 people each cohortthis means you will know your cohort incredibly well by the end. In fact, you will likely even know their names by the end of second year! 

UQ Dentistry - Quote

There’s also several standout staff at UQ Dentistry, including Emeritus Professor Laurence Walsh, who specialises in special needs dentistry. He was also the 2017-2018 president of the Australian Dental Association of Queensland and the Head of the UQ Dental School for nearly 10 years!

You’ll also find Associate Professor Alex Forrest lecturing here, who is the Director of Forensic Odontology and Queensland Health and Forensic Scientific Services. 

“The faculty is kind of like a whole team effort… All the professors also do their own research which is really cool, and they’re very established.” — Vivian Dao

Societies 

UQ has many societies to choose from. Almost every UQ Dentistry student is a member of the University of Queensland Dental Society (UQDSA)

“They hold awesome events like sports games, they have sports events, we’ve got a Dental Ball that they organise. We’ve also got mixers, so you actually socialise with Griffith Dentistry as well. They also collaborate with other societies.” — Vivian Dao

You can also look into societies based on your interests, including gardening and chess. They can be found here

Accessibility at UQ

UQ has a large range of features for students with accessibility issues, or who may need more support. 

A Diversity, Disability and Inclusion Adviser is available for students who need specialised assistance to study. They will work with you to develop a Student Access Plan (SAP), which can create changes for you in class and with assignments. They will listen to your specific needs and make adjustments accordingly.

If you are on the Autism spectrum, the Tertiary Transition Toolbox is also designed to give you extra support as you move into university study. 

Mentoring 

One thing UQ does really well is mentoring. It’s worth checking out all the ones on offer! 

The Dentistry Peer to Peer Mentoring is offered to all students starting their degree. Older students volunteer to assist you, take you through what you may need to know academically and socially, and check in. It’s also a great way of meeting new people within your degree. 

You may also like to look at the Get Set program. This program lasts five weeks at the start of uni, and gives you a great introduction to border uni life. 

Now you’re ready to take on a Bachelor of Dental Science (Honours) at UQ, as you know all that this degree involves! Take some time to consider what is best for you and explore the degree further. 


Lucinda Garbutt-Young hopes to one day be writing for a big-shot newspaper… or maybe just for a friendly magazine in the arts sector. Right now, she is enjoying studying a Bachelor of Public Communication (Public Relations and Journalism) at UTS while she writes on the side. She also loves making coffees for people in her job as a barista, and loves nothing more than a sun shower.

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