After graduating from Queens University Belfast in July 2000, I worked
as a Dental Assistant in Finch Dental Surgery in Andersonstown for two
years until a Vocational Training position became available in August 2002.
Vocational training is required in order to be issued
with a health service number so that a dentist can work for the NHS as
either an associate or a principal of a practice. This training lasts for
a year and allows the new graduate to ease their transition from dental
school to the big bad world, while perfecting clinical skills and learning
the business side of the job.
Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) degree
I arrive at work for 8:45am, have a coffee while I look through my day
list and prepare for the first patient at 9:00am. In a typical morning,
I will see around ten patients and I will do check ups, fillings, crown
preparations etc, depending on the treatment plans of the patients. Whenever
I can, I also need to fit in anyone who is in pain. If a patient misses
their appointment, I take the chance to catch up on some paperwork.
Lunch is from 1pm to 2pm and then it’s back to
work, seeing another ten patients or so before heading home at 5:30pm.
Occasionally I have to attend after-hours lectures for an hour or so on
Monday or Tuesday evenings. This is to maintain my continuing professional
My dress is fairly smart but casual e.g. jeans and t-shirt or shirt with
a protective tunic over the top. Things can get hot and stuffy in a surgery
on a warm day behind your mask. You need to feel comfortable yourself if
others are going to be at ease when you are working on them. An air of
professionalism will give a patient confidence in your ability. Some dentists
go for a full suit and tie while others are completely dressed down. Ultimately,
it’s your choice if you are your own boss.
You’ll get a lot of money if you specialise in a certain area of
dentistry or have the necessary experience to charge private fees. You’ll
get good money if you work hard under an NHS contract. You’ll get
average money when you first start working.
I enjoy working with people and taking away their pain and giving people
the confidence to smile again. I love working with my hands and the fact
I’m not stuck behind a desk all day. It’s generally nine to
Clinical skills, IT, problem-solving, initiative, confidence, communication,
There is a legal requirement for every dentist to attend at least fifteen
hours of lectures every year and to do at least thirty-five hours of professional
reading in order to maintain their continuing professional development.
Litigation against dentists is rising in frequency.
Be prepared for a lot of debt (UK average = £10,000) by the end of
your five years in dental school. Your A-levels will not be the hardest
exams you will have to take, no matter what your teachers tell you! The
best A-levels to take are chemistry, biology and either physics or maths.
The job can be both highly rewarding and highly stressful. You will need
to develop a strong stomach from day one in dental school (not just for
the social aspect of student life).