Dentistry Census 2024: key findings in dental technology

How do your earnings compare to the average? What do your peers really think about the health service? Find out in the 2024 Dentistry Census results.

How do your earnings compare to the average? What do your peers really think about the health service? Find out in the 2024 Dentistry Census results.

We believe that the 2024 Dentistry Census is the biggest survey ever conducted on the UK dental profession. Putting it together has been a huge undertaking, but such a fulfilling one: this work has been a labour of love for all of us who want to understand the sector in which we work better.

The results provide a fascinating and, I hope, valuable, glimpse into the dental profession at one of the most volatile times in its history. Because there are some stark warnings in here too, so if you take just one headline away from our research, let it be this: NHS dentistry must change – and quickly – if it is to survive.

There is no other option left. The situation is critical: years of neglect and underfunding are coming home to roost. Nine in every 10 dental professionals believe the nation’s health is under threat because NHS dentistry can’t change. Can this be much of a surprise?

Reform has been promised incessantly for almost 20 years but effective change has never felt further away. Professor Jimmy Steele’s seminal review of the ‘new’ contract was published 14 years ago and the changes he suggested are yet to appear in general practice.

The NHS Dental Recovery Plan was released in February of this year – but the consensus is that it’s a quick fix, rather than genuine, sustainable reform of the deeply flawed NHS dental contract.

State of transition

Dentistry is in a state of transition, and we are far from done with those changes. This is no bad thing: while we have made a start in tackling some of the problems, there’s so much work to be done.

The profession’s struggle with mental health continues to cast a bleak shadow – we are making strides in talking about it, but that work will never be complete until every person in this profession feels able to reach out for help in their times of need.

Whether it’s making the profession a more equitable and diverse space, becoming greener, or empowering all members of the practice team to be able to work to the fullest scope of their practice, there is still much progress to be made. So, the second headline to take away from this research is that there will be a future for the profession to do this in.

What shape that future will take remains to be seen. When our next Census rolls around, I suspect some of that shape will be visible in these findings – though we won’t know where to look for it without the perfect lens of hindsight.

In the meantime then, it’s business as usual. I hope that these findings help you all face that with a little more confidence – and a lot more insight.

Life in the lab

The increasing corporatisation of the laboratory world – a workforce that makes up a comparatively small part of the dental population – delivered a wide spread of responses to our research. Not all labs are the same and the profound spread in the range of the size of these businesses tells its own tale, with a marked difference between large centres employing tens of technicians to smaller businesses with much smaller teams.

The two extremes stand out in business spend: half of labs (50%) report spending up to £50k on capital equipment in the last three years, these tend to be smaller affairs. But at the same time, nearly a third (30%) of labs have spent more than double that.

While the growth of the private market has undoubtedly driven much of this investment, the ranges of results in this survey back up what anecdotally we are already hearing about the world of dental laboratories: that it is a sector in the midst of profound change, with a final shape that is yet to be established.

Mental health

The issue of mental health has seen a jump in awareness in recent years, with the profession growing more mindful of the effects of working in a highly stressful clinical environment or running a demanding dental business.

But awareness is not the same as action. While some of our findings indicate that more people are aware of the mental health support available to them, others only serve to highlight the critical need for vigilance: around a fifth of respondents – 21% of all roles, and 17% of dentists specifically – have experienced suicidal thoughts.

Key stats:

  • 66% of all respondents say they have a good work-life balance
  • 52% have sought help for their mental health
  • 68% feel they have access to support for mental health if they need it
  • 30% say their work regularly makes them feel happy
  • 40% of all respondents say their work regularly makes them feel content.

Working life

We saw a higher number of business owners compared to other demographics, with 40% of technicians and clinical dental technicians reporting owning the business they worked in, and a further 8.2% telling us they had operational control. With an average age of 42.4 years, this is perhaps to be expected.

While respondents’ experiences in their working lives were diverse, where the technical community unites is in its attitude to regulation: just 7% of technicians believe the General Dental Council (GDC) is doing a good job of protecting patients.

The response to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) was less extreme, with 51.7% of technicians feeling it did a passable job of ensuring standards. With that said, this number dropped to 40% for clinical dental technicians – a cohort more likely to have dealings with the CQC.

And while the technical community has much to be happy about on the face of things – with 69.2% feeling that patients value what they do – only half (53.8%) report having a good work-life balance and about the same number found it hard to unwind after work.

The pressures on dental technicians, as for all members of the dental team, are many – yet the community stood out by being 12% less likely to have sought help for their mental health.

The regulatory relationship

Dentistry’s fraught relationship with its regulator has been well documented in recent years – and, following a series of high-profile legal cases, shows few signs of improving.

Indeed, 41% of respondents believe the GDC is doing a poor job of protecting patients – a figure that leaps to 83% of anyone who has been investigated by the regulator. This is despite the fact that more than three quarters (84.5%) of those investigated saw their case closed at case examiner stage or before.

What does the future hold?

In a period that has been characterised by rapid, often uncomfortable change, the profession’s viewpoint on the future is perhaps the most telling barometer of how people really feel – and in many ways, the picture is brighter than in 2021.

Where 22% anticipated leaving the profession entirely two years ago, that number has dropped to less than 8%.

Helpful numbers

  • Confidental 0333 987 5158 Emotional first aid for dentists in distress: independent, confidential and free
  • Samaritans 116 123 Nationwide helpline offering nonjudgmental support to anyone in need
  • Dentist’s Health Support Network 0207 224 4671 Initiative providing dental professionals with free support and advice on mental health, alcohol and drug issues.

Read the 2024 Dentistry Census white paper in full – visit

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