The march of the millennial dentist

Nikhil Kanani and Hatty Jones discuss how they have helped to develop their career path through dentistry.

We speak to two young dentists, who are FGDP(UK) members, about their perceptions of dentistry as a career choice, and how opportunities for continued learning and networking have helped them stay ahead in their careers.

A lack of defined career pathway in dentistry can work both ways

Nikhil Kanani (NK): Unless you plan to specialise in a specific area and work towards that, there is no defined career path. We have to effectively develop our own path.

At dental school there was a clear structure that we worked within. But once you graduate that structure no longer exists and can leave young dentists feeling a bit lost. It is important that you develop clear long-term goals for your career in order to give yourself direction.

Hatty Jones (HJ): Dentistry is one of those careers where there are loads of choices – whether you want to remain in general practice, work in the hospital setting or specialise – and that makes it a very attractive career choice. But because of the width of choices available, it does mean that a career path may not be clear to a young dentist!

Challenges for young dentists

HJ: For those young dentists who want to specialise, there can be significant competition for a limited number of training posts. So, it’s ironic to think you could decide you want to go down a specific path, only to find that you can’t access the training you need to accomplish that.

NK: There is increasing pressure during and after dental school that one ‘must’ specialise in a particular area. It is difficult for many young dentists to know in advance the direction they would like their career to progress in.

Many people who entered the profession would traditionally have worked towards owning a practice of their own. But practice ownership may be out of reach for many newly qualified dentists.

There is also the eternal challenge of gaining the experience to apply for associate positions in order to get on the career ladder. It is important to stay motivated and seek out specific training and development opportunities.

HJ: For new dentists in practice I think the UDA system creates challenges as the focus on targets does not always allow young dentists time to develop their skills.

Experience and learning from others can be inspirational for development

HJ: I have found it important to gain broad experiences. Having been a bit uncertain as to my long-term career goals, the opportunity to work within a primary care setting and in a tertiary care unit in a hospital setting has provided me with a broad variety of experience. I have a close relationship with colleagues from university and find it useful to discuss career options with them.

NK: I’ve been lucky enough to have some really supportive mentors who have offered great advice, helped guide my decision-making process and given me the confidence to progress my career. I would say having a mentor is one of the most helpful things for career progression.

Networking and career events could help young dentists to progress and develop

HJ: After completing my MJDF in January I became a member of FGDP and have attended regional study days and evening events. I’ve found these events really beneficial.

NK: Networking events can be a great way to meet new colleagues and socialise with people who truly understand what it is like to be a young dentist in the UK.

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