Career choices

When assessing the potential career options that are on offer within a profession like dentistry, it is easy to dismiss them as pretty limited. After all, you decided to study dentistry because you wanted to become a dentist, so surely the questions stop there? Well, not quite.

The dental industry is dynamic and innovative and provides lots of opportunities for those who are prepared to look that little bit harder when deciding on their
chosen career path.

Here, are just some of the areas you may go into but if you are still undecided, why not visit a dental careers fair like the one the BDA and the UCL Eastman Dental Institute are running in February next year? Visit for more details.

Military dentistry
• Army – the Defence Dental Services’ (DDS) mission is: ‘To deliver effective military
dentistry that contributes to force generation and enhances operational capability.’

There are several different points at which you can make your decision to join the DDS, including while at university and before beginning VT. Whether you choose to be part of the army, navy or air force, you will have to go through an interview process that will probably involve a series of aptitude tests, leadership exercises and face-to-face interviews.

Not long after joining up, you will be expected to complete officer training. This usually lasts for a couple of months and will provide you with an insight into the non-dental side of life in the armed forces – so preparing you for future assignments.

After that the world is your oyster – you can expect to be doing everything from spending a week in a submarine or training with the Royal Marines to honing your surgical skills at a maxillofacial unit or taking part in military parades.
• Academia – many people enter the academic world because they enjoy sharing their knowledge with like-minded people and leaders in their field around the world.

And there are certainly possibilities for travel when you are an academic, particularly if you have a good reputation within the academic community.

So how do you go about becoming an academic? First you will need to graduate from dental school and complete Vocational Training. The next step is to complete a postgraduate qualification. Up until recently the usual qualification was the MFDS (Member of the Faculty of Dental Surgery). However, this qualification is gradually being phased out and being replaced with the MJDF (Membership of the Joint Dental Faculties).

You will then need to embark on clinical training in a similar way to those who choose a hospital career pathway. Within this period you may decide to complete a PhD or, alternatively, you can elect to do this on a full-time basis if you are lucky enough to obtain an academic training fellowship.

Ideally this should be consolidated with a postdoctoral period before applying for a senior lectureship in your chosen specialty.

Depending on your success, it may take you 10 to 15 years to be appointed to a chair. During this period you will have to treat patients, teach, administrate, examine, publish and obtain grants.

Image problem
• Community – the Community Dental Service (CDS) has long suffered from an image problem among recent graduates. Deemed either not exciting enough or too challenging because of the patients it treats, it is a service that at first glance neither has the drama of a hospital job nor the stability of life in practice.

However, dig a little deeper and find out more about this area of dentistry and you could be surprised. It can offer graduates a wide range of experiences while also ensuring they are well rewarded and have income stability.

Communication is key in the CDS, so if you feel that communicating well with your patients is one of your strong points then you may enjoy a career in this area.

And remember, in the CDS you will have more time to spend with patients and therefore won’t be rushing to get them in and out of the door as quickly as possible, which can sometimes be a problem for dentists who work in practice in the NHS. There is also the opportunity in the CDS to undertake some managerial duties and conduct research, which gives you the chance to inject a bit of variety into your job.

• Practice.
Of course, many people will already know where they want their career path to lead them, and that is usually into practice. Whether this is prompted by a sense of financial security after a ‘loan-intensive’ spell at university, a desire to get more experience or simply because they like practice life, working in this environment can be a good choice. It can provide stability, variety and a good work/life balance.

However, it can be difficult to find a practice that suits your way of working so taking the first job that comes along isn’t the way to approach things. Do your research and make sure that the set-up you are about to commit your short-term future to is one that you can work comfortably within.

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