With shortages of dentists across the United Kingdom (UK), now is one of the best times
to consider a career in dentistry. Dentists have a career in diagnosing and treating various
diseases and injuries of the mouth, teeth and gums. A dentist also plays a vital role in
directing patients on how best to look after the mouth though dental care, which can then
help problems from arising in the future. As such, a dentist not only helps to prevent
problems in the mouth, teeth and gums, but they also treat problems if they do occur.
As a dentist, you would have the opportunity to take an active role in educating patients
on proper oral hygiene.
Taking the Steps to Become a Dentist
To become a dentist, you need to complete a degree in dentistry from a recognised university.
It can be extremely competitive to get into a dentistry course and the program will usually last
five years or more. You will take subjects such as anatomy, pathology, psychology, biochemistry
and numerous other science courses. You will also complete a practical component, which ensures
that you can put the theoretical learning into practice. To apply for a place at dental school you will need A*s in biology and chemistry GCSEs, with As in both maths and English. Furthermore, at least 3As at A-level (or equivalent), two of which must be chemistry and biology, are requested, though different dental schools may vary slightly in their entry requirements. It is also highly recommended to have undertaken some extra-curricular activities involving manual dexterity and to have completed a considerable amount of work experience; you will most likely be asked about these in detail in any interviews you attend during the admissions process. You will also be asked to complete a course of vaccination against hepatitis B, provide blood test results confirming a previous vaccination against MMR, a negative HIV, hepatitis B and C status and be able to show a TB scar. A CRB check will also be requested.
Upon completion of your education, you would have to register with the General Dental Council
as well as work under supervision for some time in an established dental practice. For those who
want to work in a hospital setting, you would have additional practical training in a hospital.
As with the majority of health care professions, you would need to undergo continuing education
throughout your career, which would allow you to learn new techniques and treatments as they are
developed and introduced to the field of dentistry. You can also specialise in areas such as
cosmetic dentistry, which is in high demand right now.
Successfully Working as a Dentist
As a dentist you can expect to see anywhere between 5 and 50 patients a day depending on what treatments you have planned and how busy the practice you work at is. As a general dental practitioner you also have the option to choose between being an NHS or private dentist.
For the most part, the average dentist will work under the National Health Service (NHS). In a typical day, a dentist will look at
each patient’s mouth and will also inspect their teeth, gums and mouth for indications of problems.
Diagnostic equipment such as x-rays will be used where necessary as well. A dentist may also
administer anaesthetic or fill decayed areas of teeth. Surgical procedures such as wisdom tooth
removal are commonly performed. As a dentist, you would extract teeth, perform root fillings and
also fit patients with crowns and dentures to ensure that their teeth are filled and complete as
well as functional and attractive. You would work as part of a dental team, which would include
dental nurses to assist in surgery and dental hygienists to assist patients with hygiene and preventative
You can also choose to work in community dental care, where you might participate in
dental education campaigns in schools and in the general public. You might even perform
house visits for those who are unable to attend a general practice. Dentists who work in
hospitals tend to work on more complex dental conditions such as abnormalities in the face and jaw.
Putting Your Best Qualities Into a Career in Dentistry
To work well as a dentist, there are some important qualities you need to develop during your training.
You should be a very relaxed, personable and calm person who can reassure patients during treatment.
For some people, the idea of going to the dentist is akin to torture. Dentistry is simply one of those
unfortunate professions that is misunderstood and has gained an inaccurate reputation as a painful
part of life that is to be approached with dread.
In truth, however, your work as a dentist will allow you access to the most modern technology for
preventing pain and ensuring the comfort of your patients as you successfully perform dental treatment.
By developing strong communications skills, you can speak clearly and effectively with your patients.
As a dentist, you also need good hand-eye coordination and the ability to educate patients on proper
dental care. You should generally enjoy the sciences and have a deep care for facilitating good oral
hygiene and treatment in patients.
Most dentists make approximately £77,000 to £83,000 although this figure does vary depending on the
environment you choose as a dentist. Those who specialise in cosmetic dentistry enjoy some of the
highest salaries of any health care professional. Given the shortage of dentists, you can expect a
stable career and many choices when deciding where you want to work as a dentist. Clearly now is
one of the best times to consider putting your interest in dental care into practice by embarking
on training to become a dentist.