With dentists in short supply across the UK making the decision to become a dentist could be a good career choice. A dentist’s role is to diagnose and treat various diseases in the mouth, gums and teeth. It’s also about advising patients on how best to look after the mouth through dental care to try and prevent problems happening in the future.
Typical work activities
The majority of dentists work in practices as part of a team which may include a receptionist, dental nurse, hygienist, therapist and a dental technician.
A dentist’s main duties include:
– Examining patients teeth and diagnosing dental problems, often using X rays
– Instructing patients on oral healthcare
– Repairing teeth affected by decay and treating gum disease
– Identifying treatment options and agreeing a treatment plan with patients
– Maintaining the dental records of patients
– Managing budgets and stocks of equipment
– Marketing services to new clients
– Keeping abreast of new development through continuing personal training
– Recruiting, managing and training staff
Steps to becoming a dentist
In order to become a dentist you need to have successfully completed a degree in dentistry. Entry to the course normally requires high grades in science subjects such as chemistry, biology, physics or mathematics. The course consists of part academic training along with theory and practical training in all aspects of dental practise. A pre dental year course exists for those candidates who do not have a science based degree or the equivalent. This lasts for 30 weeks and is taken before beginning the undergraduate degree course.
Graduate entry to dental school is also possible and requires a 2:1 in a science based degree. Competition is fierce and the course usually lasts for five years.
Having finished your education you would then have to register with the General Dental Council and also work for some time under supervision in an established dental practice. Those wanting to work in a hospital environment would be required to have additional training. Similar to most health care professions, a dentist would need to undergo continuing treatment throughout his career to be well versed in new techniques and treatments.
The qualities needed for a career in dentistry
To be a good dentist there are several qualities which need to be built on during your training. You need to be a likeable, calm and relaxed person who can reassure their patients during treatment. Many people fear going to the dentist and are very nervous throughout an examination and treatment. Dentistry is unfortunately a misunderstood profession which has has gained a misconceived idea that whatever you have done, it’s going to hurt. Consequently people face the thought of a dental visit with dread.
However, in reality you will be working with some of the most modern technology to ensure your patient’s comfort and prevention of pain, so that you can carry out successful treatment. You need to develop good communication skills so that you can speak easily and effectively with patients.
You will also need good hand eye co-ordination and be able to educate people on good dental care practices. You also need to enjoy the sciences and have a real desire to help people to look after their teeth.
How much will you earn
Salaries vary according to where you choose to work. Graduates employed as VDP’s or vocational dental practitioners start on around £30,132 per annum. Most dentists work on a self employed basis dividing their work between NHS work and private work. Their earnings can be anywhere between £50,000 and £110,000. Dentists who are strictly private can earn well in excess of £140,000.
Many dentists elect to become self employed GDPs or general dental practitioners and some aspire to become consultants often in a hospital dental service. Hospital dentists follow a defined training and career pathway and have to obtain postgraduate qualifications to secure senior posts. They can choose to specialise in either
– paediatric dentistry
– oral and maxillofacial surgery
– restorative dentistry