Dentist Careers

How to become Dentist

What does a Dentist do?

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.

What's the working environment like working as a Dentist?

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.

What does it take to become a Dentist?

To be a dentist you should:

  • be genuinely interested in the welfare of your patients
  • have a real interest and high level of ability in science
  • have a high level of manual dexterity and good eyesight
  • be able to concentrate for long periods of time
  • have excellent communication skills to explain complex treatment to patients or give instructions for maintenance of dental hygiene
  • be friendly and sympathetic to put anxious patients at ease
  • have a professional and confident manner to inspire the confidence of your patients
  • be able to relate well to a wide range of people
  • have good leadership skills to motivate your staff to work well as a team
  • have the business and management skills to run a dental practice.

Dentist Career Opportunities

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.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Dentist that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

NHS Learning and Development Service
Tel: 08000 150 850

The British Dental Association
64 Wimpole Street
Tel: 020 7935 0875

The General Dental Council
37 Wimpole Street
Tel: 020 7887 3800