Stand out in the crowd – the importance of work placements in dentistry

Stand out in the crowd – the importance of work placements in dentistry

Dental school isn’t easy – but seeking work placements and opportunities outside of the classroom can help to better your understanding, says May Firoozmand.

Dental school trains one to become more independent and responsible for one’s own growth and development.

In a nutshell, dental school is physically, academically and mentally demanding and at times it can be very tempting to cut corners and fall into bad habits.

However, those individuals who establish an effective routine early on find strategies to help manage their time, prioritise tasks in order to meet deadlines and are prepared to make mistakes and learn from them. This is the recipe for successfully completing dental school.

Searching for opportunities to help enhance one’s understanding can be done in different creative ways: whether that’s investing in additional online courses, attending local and international dental conferences if one’s student budget allows and arranging work placements.

Long-term benefits

I can speak from the perspective of a dental student who has continued to organise regular work placements, summer internships and periods of observer-ship whilst at dental school.

Over the years, I have definitely seen the long-term benefits in setting additional time aside to shadow dental professionals outside the university setting. I have compiled a list of them in this article.

Dental school definitely prepares you thoroughly theoretically. The scheduled time allocated for seeing patients in clinics gives one the opportunity to apply the theory practically.

The fundamentals of dentistry should definitely be understood early on before advancing through dental school. They set a foundation that one can build on as one gains experience.

This is where I have found work experience plays an important role in giving one the opportunity to practise implementing knowledge one has acquired during the years in real life clinical scenarios alongside a dental professional.

Opportunity to observe

It is also the ideal environment to ask questions, raise concerns and clarify concepts that one previously didn’t fully understand whilst studying. This can definitely enhance your understanding and make it easier to apply later in your practice.

Paediatric dentistry is definitely a class I very much look forward to going to at university. The passion I had for this subject inspired me to search locally for an opportunity to observe more paediatric clinical cases.

I luckily found a unique opportunity to assist and observe in a community paediatric dental clinic where I have had the opportunity to practise applying my theoretical knowledge in a diverse range of clinical situations more efficiently and quickly. I have built the confidence to present a more concrete treatment plan.

Dentistry is one of those professions that is continuously changing. It is important to build awareness and keep up to date with the latest technology and materials in dentistry.

At dental school, for example, one is taught the conventional methods of taking impressions. The new, modern methods are not necessarily exemplified within the university, such as the use of digitalised impressions.

Hence it is important to stay in the loop and be aware of both conventional and newly introduced methods of treatment across a range of fields of dentistry. Dentistry is very broad.

Bridging the gap

There are multiple paths one can follow within dentistry alone. Whether that’s taking a more academic route and becoming a lecturer at a university or pursuing one’s dream of becoming a maxillofacial surgeon, a career that bridges the gap between medicine and dentistry.

The sky really is the limit. One can focus on a specific field of dentistry and work towards becoming a qualified specialist. For example, an orthodontist, an implant dentist or an endodontist to name a few.

Or one may prefer to broaden the range of services they offer and continue to advance and develop skills across different fields of dentistry rather than narrowing down to only one speciality.

Observing dentistry in different clinical settings, such as in a hospital, in a private exclusive dental clinic or in a public dental centre, can definitely guide one in making a decision. It can gradually make clearer what work environment you prefer to practise dentistry in.

I recently undertook a two-week period of observership in the department of oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMFS) in Peterborough Hospital. I had the honour to shadow consultants: Mr Moss, Mr Gibbons and Mr Puttar.

Diverse day

My experience was incredible, the hospital environment was fast-paced, dynamic and not one day was the same. A typical day would involve scrubbing up for the morning and heading into the operating theatre to observe a diverse range of surgical procedures.

This included BSSO (bilateral sagittal split osteotomies), Le-fort osteotomies, orbital floor and zygomatic bone reconstruction, removal of supernumerary teeth and odontogenic cysts, extraction of impacted wisdom teeth, punch biopsies and skin grafts to name a few.

The afternoons could involve sitting in clinics and observing routine head, neck and mouth examinations and reviewing patients post-surgery. Or they could involve running to other departments in the hospital alongside a speciality doctor with the emergency kit to examine patients who had oral and maxillofacial-related problems – but were either bed bound or had accompanying diseases which lead to further complications.

Start and the end

Finishing dental school is really the end of a chapter and the start of a new one. This can definitely be daunting for young professionals who have just recently graduated. Seeking expert advice and building connections with experienced professionals prior to graduating can definitely inspire confidence and reassurance.

The transfer from university to working full time as a dental professional becomes less daunting, more inviting and exciting when knowing you have people you can rely on and reach out to who can take you under their wing and guide you to kick-starting your career in dentistry.

Travelling abroad and observing how dentistry is practised in different countries can expose and open one to learning new methods and approaches to dentistry.

Dentistry in England may be very different to how it is practised in the rest of Europe, for example.

At the time, it may seem stressful trying to squeeze in a work placement between midterm exams. But in the long run the experience one gains in Germany at an orthodontic clinic may be more valuable than you may realise.

It could inspire you to pursue your dental career in Germany, for example.


Documenting cases during work placements that you found particularly interesting – and constantly updating and enriching your CV – displays one’s ever-growing interest and passion in the career and also one’s thirst to learn.

This definitely sets you apart from the crowd and distinguishes you from other candidates when applying for a job.

It can make all the difference when striving to land your dream job in an exclusive clinic in London. These invaluable experiences will shape and define you as a dental professional.

One will learn many things: the importance of physician-patient communication, the role each individual plays within a team, being prepared to learn and grow from making mistakes, and the desired traits and characteristics that make a successful dental professional.

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