The scope of dental professionals' practice

On this page you can find: 

  • The current Scope of Practice guidance and information about it.
  • Information about the review of the Scope of Practice guidance that recently took place.
  • Information about the consultation to update the Scope of Practice guidance following its review.

Scope of Practice guidance  

The Scope of Practice guidance sets out the skills and abilities each of the seven dental professional roles within the dental team should have. It is not an exhaustive list of all tasks that a dental professional can do. As a dental professional, your individual scope of practice is likely to change over the course of your career, whether because of changes in the technology of dentistry, or your further training and development. 

​​The Scope of Practice guidance also describes additional skills that you might develop after registration with the GDC to increase your personal scope of practice within the boundaries of your professional title. You may expand your scope by developing additional skills, or you may deepen your knowledge of a particular area by choosing more specialised practice. 

You should only carry out a task or type of treatment or make decisions about a patient’s care if you are sure that you have the necessary skills and are appropriately trained, competent and indemnified. If you are unclear exactly what this means you should ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Am I trained to carry out this task or treatment?
  • Do I feel competent to carry out this task or treatment?
  • Am I indemnified/practice covered to carry out this task or treatment? 
If a task, type of treatment or decision is outside your scope of practice or you do not feel that you are trained and competent to do it, you must refer the patient to an appropriately trained colleague. You must practise in accordance with the GDC’s Standards for the Dental Team​ at all times.​ 
You can view or download the Scope of Practice guidance here. Please note that although we are currently consulting on updating this guidance as explained further below, the guidance in its current form remains in effect and should be referred to by all dental professionals. 


Review of the Scope of Practice guidance  

The Scope of Practice guidance was introduced in 2009 and sets out the skills and abilities that every dental professional should have at the point of registration with the GDC and the skills which might be developed later on as they go through their career. It was last reviewed in 2013 in line with the introduction of direct access and the publication of the Standards for the Dental Team.   

The recent review of the Scope of Practice guidance started in 2019 with independent research commissioned to help us understand how the guidance is used, what the impacts of the guidance have been, and to ask what its future should be.  
Among the findings of the research was that the Scope of Practice guidance is not being used in the way that it was originally intended and that dental professionals reported low levels of awareness on the scope of others in the dental team.  

Examining the findings of our research

We held a live online event in September 2020 to examine the findings of our research. In the event, lead researchers from IFF Research took us through the findings, while GDC Policy Manager, Katherine McGirr, provided details of our internal analysis, undertaken to further inform our review of the Scope of Practice guidance. 

Video: You can watch the recording of the event below. 

Following the research, in February 2021, representatives from key stakeholder organisations joined us on virtual workshops to discuss options for updating and modernising our Scope of Practice guidance. Together, we explored the issues practitioners encounter when using the guidance and looked at the potential different options for presenting the scope of practice of the dental team, with a focus on options that will deliver improvements to the current format and content of the guidance.  

Building on the valuable feedback we received, and with an aim of modernising the guidance, in June and August of 2021, we held a series of virtual workshops with dental professionals and stakeholder organisations to help us develop the structure and content for each of the dental professions’ scope of practice. The stakeholders included dental professionals, professional associations, indemnity providers, and those with experience in dental education. 

We also engaged patients and the public through an independent research organisation to understand their views on the guidance and how it can be improved. We learned that patients and the public are largely unaware of the Scope of Practice guidance and have little knowledge of the varying roles within the dental team. We heard suggestions for more patient and public facing materials that can help people understand the differing roles that can be involved in a patients’ dental care.

Based on all the feedback and we received, we finalised a draft of a revised Scope of Practice guidance which we are now formally consulting on. We will also be taking work forward to develop, with the help of patients and the public, additional materials specifically to help patients and the public to better understand the differing professional roles within the dental team. 

The consultation to update the Scope of Practice guidance 

Following a thorough review of our Scope of Practice guidance, which included independent research and extensive stakeholder engagement, including with patients and the public, we are now formally consulting on a draft updated guidance. This proposed draft has been co-produced with the help of key stakeholders including dental professionals, professional associations and those with experience in dental education.  

Our proposed changes to the guidance aim to better support dental professionals to use their professional judgements to make decisions in the interest of their patients. The changes also aim to help professionals understand the boundaries of other roles within the dental team, to promote team-working that delivers best patient care. 

Our proposal is part of a wider ambition to positively foster professional behaviours, skills, and attributes across dentistry. We continue to take steps to maintain and improve patient safety by moving dental regulation towards preventing harm rather than responding to the consequences of it. A key part of this move is to foster a system that supports and encourages professionalism and decision-making that is centred on the best interests of patients.   

It's important to note that the proposed update to the guidance will not change any of the dental professions’ scope of practice. The changes aim to provide dental professionals with clear boundaries around their role while also enabling those who are trained, competent and indemnified to expand their personal scope of practice within those boundaries safely and effectively.  

Also, our preliminary work showed us that our proposed changes to the guidance will not have any adverse impact on our fitness to practice process or case outcomes. We will, however, assess this further following the consultation.