Is dentistry right for me?
With the huge range of medical careers to select from, it can be hard to know which path to take. In this article, we aim to equip you with all that you need to know about the field of dentistry so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not this career is for you.
Is there much demand for dentists?
Yes- always! Recent government statistics indicate that whilst oral health is improving in England, a survey of 5-year olds showed that just under a quarter have tooth decay with the problem being particularly prevalent in disadvantaged socio-economic areas. Children with tooth decay can suffer from problems with eating, sleeping, communication and socialising. At least 60,000 days were missed from school during 2017 for hospital extractions alone. Amongst adults, a significant positive association has been found between the loss of bone supporting teeth due to periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, a career in dentistry offers the opportunity to make a really positive impact upon people’s lives.
What does a dentist do?
In a typical day, a dentist may see 20 patients with a staff meeting beforehand to review the patients’ dental and medical history. Dentists carry out check-ups to evaluate your oral health, diagnose conditions and carry out preventative and restorative work where necessary. Tasks may range from a general check-up and offering advice on cleaning technique to carrying out fillings or root canal treatment where anaesthetic injections and drilling to remove decayed matter may be required. Keeping accurate records is really important as is the ability to carry out x-rays and identify other conditions that may be linked to oral health.
Where do dentists work?
Dentists may work in the NHS or in private clinics. Most work as general dental practitioners (GDPs), usually in a high street dental practice. They are self-employed contractors, mixing NHS and private work. Salaries range between £50,000 and £110,000. For dentists working wholly in private practice, earnings may reach more than £140,000.
Training and qualifications
Like all medical careers, dentistry is considered to be a calling with extensive training and qualifications required. High grades at A level or equivalent in science subjects, including biology and chemistry are needed along with a degree in dentistry from an approved institution. This can take five years to complete. Some universities require you to sit a UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT). Thorough preparation for these exams is essential if you are to succeed as competition for places is fierce.
As for all medical professions, a genuine interest in providing quality healthcare in this field and a lifelong love of learning to keep up with new developments is crucial. You must be trustworthy and comfortable with close personal interaction, easy to talk to and able to put patients at ease. You have to work with a range of people from different specialisms and make important decisions regarding your patients’ welfare so clear communication, leadership and team working skills are essential.