Social media versus reality

Amy Hansford talks to young dentist and teacher Petros Mylonas about dental students’ perceptions of the NHS and the influence of social media on this

Younger dentists are not seeing the NHS as an attractive career path. A survey by the BDA showed that 53% of young dentists intend to leave the NHS within five years, and, of those, 10% plan to leave the profession entirely and 42% plan on refocusing on private dentistry.

What’s more, when talking to those just embarking on their career, the phrase ‘stepping stone’ often comes up in relation to the NHS. It would seem that newly qualified dentists don’t aspire to a long-term career in the NHS and view it more as a means to the end goal of moving to private. This could, of course, have implications for the future of the NHS.

Virtual reality

With the rise in social media widely reported, what impact are the likes of Facebook and Instagram having among dental students and new dentists, particularly when it comes to their views on the NHS as a long-term career option? Petros Mylonas, who qualified in 2012 and teaches dental students at King’s College London, Guy’s Hospital, shares his thoughts.

He said: ‘A lot of the students I teach are picking up this feeling from social media, that the NHS is something to be endured before moving to the private sector, before they have actually spent any time working within the system.

‘I feel that it is part of my duty as a teacher to try to ground them in reality and, while aspiring to work in private dentistry is fine, I encourage them at this stage in their very early careers to concentrate on working towards first becoming a good dentist, rather than focusing on a specific sector.

‘A lot of students are really engrossed in social media and will tell me about videos they’ve seen of dentists doing amazing work, and ask why they’re not being taught that. Whilst it’s nice to see that level of enthusiasm for the career they’re entering into, part of my role as a teacher and one of the many roles of the dental school is to ensure that when they do start practising, the NHS won’t be a huge culture shock.

‘So, I will explain to students that the kind of things they are seeing, such as All-on-4 implant cases and composite aesthetic full mouth rehab cases, are cases that have been completed by experienced dentists that have many years of clinical experience and postgraduate training under their belt. And it is unrealistic (and impossible for certain cases) for any student upon graduation to immediately embark on treating such cases. That’s because as a dental school we’re equipping them to be good, upstanding dentists who can practise and treat the vast majority of cases and, if needed, then undergo further postgraduate training courses to be able to treat more complex cases.

‘It doesn’t mean that what they see on social media is not achievable for them, or that they shouldn’t take inspiration from the types of cases presented by dentists from all over the world, but we would be doing them a disservice as their dental school if we didn’t prepare them for the actuality of the first phase of their career. In reality, they will be working in the constraints all dentists work within and it will take time before they then develop that kind of experience – initially at least.

‘There is a perception, not just among students, that there is a dichotomy between being an NHS dentist and private dentist, when actually first and foremost we are all dentists. For students, that means learning and becoming competent in the basics first and completing their vocational training will allow them to get a better suited job, and through that they will gain the understanding of what it is really like to practise dentistry and to make well-informed decisions about their future career path.’

Practice Plan is a specialist provider of practice-branded patient membership plans in the UK. Practice Plan has helped hundreds of dentists make a successful move to private dentistry. If you’re looking for more independence or freedom from the NHS and a more fulfilling and rewarding future, call 01691 684165 or visit

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