I want to be a dentist, where do I start?
To qualify as a dentist, you need to complete a dental course, which usually lasts five years and leads to a bachelor’s degree (either BDS or BChD)
You will likely decide you enjoy science-based subjects at school and take this on to GSCE and A level.
The courses you will look at are Biology Chemistry and Physics. You will need Grade C or above in Maths, English, and Science (at GCSE) alongside the other requirements at school.
When you get to A levels you will need to pursue science courses to take you through to university and then seek out the place and course that suits your needs.
There are four-year courses available at Aberdeen, Kings, Liverpool, and UCL dental schools for students with prior qualifications, for example, a degree in Biomedical Sciences.
How is the course set out?
Your first year will be pre-clinical, this means you study but have no contact with patients, this year covers anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and dental material science.
In year two, you will begin to see patients and learn the foundation of general medicine. You will likely spend time in the dental lab and practicing on phantom(dummy) heads.
Years three-four-five will be a combination of study to include oral medicine, diseases, signs and symptoms and generally doing more treatments and learning skills in how to work in general practice.
Once you have qualified you are then required to work at a surgery under the watchful eye of a fully qualified experienced dentist, you are called a VT (vocational trainee). This is a one-year surgery placement to allow you to develop your skills before ‘going it alone.
What do I do after this?
Some dentists will become teachers or lecturers in dental schools, others will be employed in hospitals or community clinics, but most will become general dental practitioners.
Often, they will be managing a team of people encompassing dental nurses, hygienists, receptionists, and others.
Good administrative and managerial abilities are required.
Being a dentist takes more than just academic training, you will be working closely with patients and staff. This will be testing and high pressured at times. Patients can and will be demanding but also scared. Fundamentally, you must have a warm and caring personality coupled with patience and understanding. You must not go into this career without fully being prepared to fit this complex role.
To be successful and enjoy this profession, it is essential that you possess good people skills and an interest in their welfare.
Once you are fully qualified you must legally register to be listed as a dentist in the UK, this is with the General Dental Council. This is the body that governs all dental staff in the UK. General Dental Council (GDC-uk.org)
Dentists must follow ethical guidelines in their dealings with patients and failure to do so may call their continued registration into question.
Alongside this, you must take out indemnity cover(professional) insurance to be able to work. Dentists do get sued in this county sadly.
You will also have to carry out CPD (continuing professional development) This is a requirement of your qualification. It is a post-graduation study to stay up to date with rules, regulations, and training.
What happens next?
Most newly qualified dentists work at a surgery owned by someone with more experience, this role is known as an associate. This may be in the NHS but can also be private. To work under the NHS you also have to register with them.
The roles you can take on as a dentist are :-
Armed forces dentistry
University teaching and research
Over time and as your experience grows you may decide you wish to buy your own practice and specialise in one or two areas within the field.
Whatever road you choose to take, remember you need a good team to work with you, be good to your nurses, hygienists, receptionists, and fellow dentists……. you will rely on them for more than you think…