Dentist Jobs and Careers
If you are interested in a healthcare but don't wish to pursue a career in medicine, then dentistry might be of interest to you.
Typically, dentists work in teams of dental healthcare professionals, helping people with their dental care, restoration and repair.
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In the UK, dentists may work in one of four areas:
- General dental practice.
- Community dental care.
- Hospital dental care.
- Dental public health.
The dental teams include dental nurses, dental technicians, hygienists and therapists. Dentists themselves are often self-employed in their own practices, either providing dental care under the National Health Service (NHS), or working privately. Dentists also work in the armed forces, and research or teach in universities.
What is Involved in the Dentist Job?
We will now look more closely at the different areas of dentistry and what each area covers.
General Dental Care
As the most common area of dentistry, this is where most dentists work at the start of their dentistry careers. Like the general practitioner in medicine, the dentist's surgery is a private business, often located in the heart of the community. The majority of dentists in this situation combine NHS work with private practice from the same premises.
The NHS pays a basic rate to the dentist plus fees for work conducted. Work may include:
- Examining teeth and diagnosing dental conditions.
- Undertaking x-rays to assess underlying condition of teeth.
- Suggesting and discussing treatment plans with patients.
- Removing plaque and restoring teeth affected by decay.
- Filling cavities.
- Treating gum disease.
- Taking impressions of teeth for construction of crowns, bridges, etc.
- Extracting decayed teeth that are beyond treatment.
- Administering anaesthetics in advance of treatments
- Prescribing medication where appropriate.
- Maintaining patients' dental records.
- Recruiting, training and managing staff.
- Managing budgets and maintaining stocks of equipment.
- Attending courses to continue professional education.
- Marketing services to potential clients.
- Educating patients on oral health care.
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Hospital Dental Care
Working in hospitals involves a high level of specialisation, in areas such as oral surgery, paediatric dentistry, orthodontics or restorative dentistry. Clients are fewer in number, but the treatment is more demanding and complex, as it addresses medical conditions, facial injuries due to accidents or car crashes, facial disease that affects the mouth, or congenital abnormalities requiring redress. Usually working within a team, the hospital dentist may be involved in:
- Consulting, advising and treating specialist cases that have been referred by general practitioners or other hospitals.
- Consulting, advising and treating patients admitted to hospitals as in-patients due to disease or accidents.
- Providing dental care for longer term patients who are being treated for non-dental conditions and illnesses.
- Providing dental care for shorter term patients who may need it in addition to their primary treatment.
- Treating a limited number of outpatients whose other medical conditions render treatment in a hospital the best option.
- In a teaching hospital, they may be involved in treating members of the public who do not otherwise require hospital treatment.
Hospital dentists benefit from progressive training through a postgraduate program and a clear career structure. Their professional status is equivalent to hospital doctors.
Community Dental Care
Some patients require dental treatment but are unable, for various reasons, to attend their local surgery. They might be elderly, bedridden, disabled or mentally ill, or they might be children with special needs. Employed directly by primary care trusts, community dentists work with these people in their home settings, nursing homes, community clinics or even mobile clinics.
Community dentists work within teams that include other healthcare professionals, such as community nurses and health visitors. Their work also involves administration, while they can also take on managerial and research duties. In the context of the primary care trust, they can also become involved in screening work and wider oral health studies.
Dental public health
Dentists involved in public health do not see patients, but are involved in assessing dental health needs amongst the population in general. Their work in this fairly new area aims to ensure that those needs are met through dental services. This is achieved by working with people in all areas of dentistry, primary care trusts, health authorities and government offices, as well as academic post holders in higher education and the Department of Health.
Is This Job Right for You?
Dentists need to possess the following skills and abilities.
- Strong academic ability, with the desire to meet the academic challenge to build clinical knowledge and expertise, matching this with case-based knowledge.
- Commitment is needed for the long, demanding degree course, plus future application to ongoing professional development training.
- Strong verbal communication skills, plus an empathetic and sensitive nature and approach to other people, with the ability to interact with patients in an understanding manner, and the genuine desire to help patients with minor and major dental issues.
- Manual dexterity, plus attention to detail and the ability to concentrate for long periods of time.
- The ability to apply sound clinical knowledge and awareness to a full investigation signs and symptoms.
- A high level of personal and professional integrity, with the capacity to take responsibility for one's individual actions and decisions, plus the motivation to do so.
- High levels of personal organisation and administration skills, with the ability to prioritise tasks from amongst high workloads, delegating as and when necessary.
- Where appropriate, management abilities, including staff supervisory skills, staff motivation, communication skills, team decision making, budgeting, etc.
The majority of dentists working in general dental practices work weekday hours between 8am and 6pm. Dentist work in hospitals is more likely to be out of office hours, particularly if specialising as a consultant in dental surgery. They are also likely to be on call with weekend rotas.
Dental education is akin to medical education, being lengthy and highly regulated. A five-year Bachelors' degree (BDS or BChD) from an approved dental school (approved by the General Dental Council [GDC]) entails academic education, theoretical and practical training. Subjects covered include health, biological and behavioural sciences, as well as clinical dental skills.
Graduates in science degrees with a high level of biology and chemistry can pursue shorter dental courses of four years. If planning to work as a general dental practitioner, students have to complete vocational training as a Vocational Dental Practitioner (VDP). Students planning to work in hospital dental services have to work in a hospital as a Senior House Officer.
Attainment of this degree is then followed by further specialist training, in the form of postgraduate dental education or vocational training.
Salaries and Prospects
Vocational Dental Practitioners, who are not yet fully qualified, can earn around £30,000 a year. Self-employed general dental practitioners earn from £60,000 to £142,000.
If later employed by an NHS primary care trust in a community dental service, earnings range from £38,000 to £80,000.
Dental consultants working in hospitals earn between £75,000 to £175,000, with additional performance awards.
Dentist Jobs Sites
There are many specialist Dental recruitment agencies offering jobs in the UK and abroad: