Most dentists work as general dental practitioners in the community. Dental practices can take either private or NHS patients; most take a mixture of both. Dentists can also work with the Community Dental Service, in hospitals, universities, in industry, or the Armed forces.
In general practice dentists provide their patients with a range of services including dental treatments and check-ups. Dentists keep dental records for each patient. Treatment can include fillings, extractions, fitting bridges and dentures. They may take X-rays and give people local anaesthetic. Depending on the size of the practice, a dental hygienist may carry out some of the treatment. Some dentists in larger practices choose to specialise in a particular type of treatment.
Dentists who own a practice are also responsible for the day-to-day running of the business, and managing and leading a team.
In the Community Dental Service dentists care for people with special needs, specifically young children, but also those with physical or mental disabilities, and the elderly.
In hospitals dentists undertake specialised dental work, for example, restorative dentistry, orthodontics, and oral surgery. Patients are referred from general dental practitioners or doctors. Patients can include people with complex facial injuries, or congenital abnormalities.
In universities dentists are involved with teaching and researching dentistry; some become senior lecturers or professors. Working in industry is likely to mean working for a large business providing general dental services to company employees. Being a dentist in the Armed Forces may involve undertaking operations in both war and peace times.
A dentist will use a range of dental and surgical instruments and work under sterile conditions to reduce the risk of infection. The use of dangerous chemicals is also involved.
Hours worked by dentists vary according to where they work. Working in general practice most dentists will work 9am - 5pm, Monday to Friday. Unsocial hours may be required for evening or weekend surgery sessions to accommodate patients' needs and on-call emergency cover. A hospital dentist’s hours are long and irregular and may involve working at night, during weekends and on-call duties. Dentists working in the Community Dental Service, universities, and industry work more regular hours. Part-time work is possible. Most dentists work in dental surgeries, which are clean, sterile and well lit. Dentists working for the Community Dental Service work in a number of different places and a driving licence is useful.
Hospital dentists will carry out some operations in an operating theatre.
Dentists wear a coat or tunic, surgical gloves and safety glasses for protection and to reduce the risk of cross infection.
To be a dentist you should:
The majority of dentists work in general practice and are mainly self-employed. Around 10% of dentists work in the Hospital Dental Service and 6% in the Community Dental Service. It is possible for a dentist to move from one branch of dentistry to another.
Corporate bodies such as Boots now offer more extensive dental services. These, together with the new Personal Dental Services commissioned locally by the NHS, and the proposed new Dental Access Centres, may increase the number of employed dentists in general practice.
NHS reforms will see a range of incentives aimed at attracting dentists on career breaks back into the profession, including an estimated £4000 ‘welcome back’ grant, refresher training and flexible working options.
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