The challenges faced by dentists are deeply underestimated. In most careers, fatigue happens for one of two reasons. Physical exhaustion or mental exhaustion. As a dentist, you have to cope with both types of stress on the job, as you’ll be highly focused on the mouth. The dental hygiene of patients, and for a proper examination, you’re going to be on your feet all day, and getting yourself bent over to inspect the teeth, gums, and other ailments of dentistry, and focused on a confined space.
In some instances, such as mouth disease, the dentist is the front line defence, who can diagnose, effectively treat, and advise patients of oral health care. T
he best in the profession enter the dentistry field for the purposes of patient care, but nonetheless, due the high salaries on offer, there are those who will choose the field of dentistry to specialise in for monetary gain. The cold hard truth of the matter is that dentists often work self-employed, running their own practices, hiring and managing staff, which all eats into overheads.
Above a high field of expertise, business skills are essential too.
The training you take to become a dentist, not only educates you on the essential skills, treatment and diagnostic procedures, but it will also equip you with the managerial skills required to run a successful general dental practice. Make no mistake about it, the work of a dentist is demanding.
Some patients will salivate at the mere sound of a drill; therefore, an essential quality in successful dentists is the ability to work with all types of people, especially when it comes to treating children. A number of patients also have a fear of dentists, and that can be caused by early childhood trauma, or perhaps just an unrealistic perception that a trip to the dentist will result in pain.
While the most procedures will involve some element of pain, dentists are taught the best procedures to minimise that aspect as part of patient care, making it a pleasant experience, keeping patients returning for routine dental check-ups.
It’s what patient care is all about.
Making the experience as pleasant as possible, and unfortunately, it’s a trait that not all dentists have. Some are solely focused on the job at hand, that they forget to take into account how the patient feels. A major aspect to dentistry is people skills and communication.
The ability to explain in an easy to understand manner to patients, the procedure that’s being done, why it’s being done, and the post-procedure advice is what contributes to making a name for yourself in this profession. Every single person requires essential dental care at some point in their life, but there are also other cosmetic enhancements a general dental practitioner can offer. This could be anything from an at home teeth whitening kit, to full laser treatment. Both types will contribute to a person’s self-esteem as they allow patients to smile without consciousness of yellowing teeth. That’s one area of dentistry you could focus on. Helping patients have better-looking teeth.
However, the core of a dentist’s job is all about taking care of oral health. Not making people look better, although it is an important element to the job.
Training to become a dentist will require a five year degree course within a dental school followed by a twelve month vocational period of supervised employment. The degree course will combine theory and practical work and the vocational work will take place within an established practice.
The degree course will take 5 years full time education to complete and the vocational training will require a further 12 months minimum. Additional courses will be required to specialise in specific areas including cosmetic dentistry or implants and these vary in length but expect approximately a further 2 years.
Following your training you will be required to register with the General Dental Council for eligibility to work within the UK.
Dentist Training – What are the entry requirements?
All candidates for a degree in dentistry will require five good GCSE grades followed by three A Levels which should include 2 science based subjects. Scottish qualifications and A Levels may be accepted by some institutions.
A candidate without the relevant A Level subjects may complete a 12 month pre-dental course prior to the degree course and a graduate with a biology or chemistry degree may undertake an accelerated four year degree course if the original course is deemed suitable.
Within the UK, 50 per cent of dental schools also require applicants to complete the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) which is being used more and more in the selection of candidates for medical and dental degree courses.
The education is dentistry will afford you the ability to lead a dental team in the assessment, treatment and education of individuals in their oral care.
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A dentist or dental surgeon works to assess a patient’s oral cavities, treating disease, rectifying issues and generally educating individuals on oral care.
Managing a team including dental assistants, dental technicians and other dental auxiliaries, the dental surgeon will carry out a range of treatments including restorative work such as bridges, fillings and crowns, orthodontic such as fitting braces, prosthetics including dentures etc, gum work (periodontal), and endodontic procedures which include root canal surgery.On a daily basis the dentist will perform examinations, take x-rays and prescribe medication.
There are opportunities for dentists to work both within the NHS or the private sector in a general practitioners clinic, within the armed forces, or within a hospital environment where they would focus on jaw and facial reconstruction. Additional training also allows a dentist to specialise in specific areas including cosmetic dentistry and paediatric dentistry.
A dentist’s salary can vary considerably depending on whether they have chosen employment within the NHS, armed forces or the private sector and can also vary depending on whether they have chosen to specialise or not. For example a qualified NHS general dental practitioner can expect a salary of approximately £100,000 per annum, however a specialist cosmetic dentistry surgeon may demand in excess of £300,000 per annum.
The role of a dental assistant is one that requires an individual to assist a dentist on a daily basis; ensuring patients are calm and ready for treatment and that the equipment within the clinic is ready for use. The dental assistant will also be present during the treatment to pass instruments to the dentist and complete any paperwork regarding the patient.
It is possible for a dental assistant to train on the job, once they hold a qualification in biology and chemistry, although some practices require an individual to have completed formal training.
The next stage in a dental assistant’s career would be to enrol in a formal course to train to become a dental hygienist.
Salary expectations for a dental assistant range from £17,000 – £24,000, dependant on qualifications and experience.
A dental hygienist will have undergone formal training approved by the General Dental Practice. This course takes approximately 2 years of full time training to complete and will provide a qualification allowing them to work as part of the dental team within a general dental practice, hospital or as part of a community based team. The course covers a variety of topics including anatomy, dental health education and dental pathology.
The dental hygienist will focus on the patient’s oral health, carrying out such procedures as polishing and scaling teeth and preparing patients for surgery.
Career opportunities include practice manager. A dental hygienist can look to earn £25,000 to £40,000.
A dental technician works to a dentists prescriptions to create custom made dentures, crowns, bridges, braces and other devices to aid a patient in their oral treatment – improving appearance, aiding speech and increasing the general function of the teeth.
A dental technician can specialise in four key areas. A prosthodontic technician makes dentures, while an orthodontic technician makes braces and a conservation technician makes crowns and bridges. Usually working within a hospital, a maxilla-facial technician help to reconstruct the faces of individuals who have been affected by accidents, burns or diseases.
A GDC approved qualification must be to work as a dental technician, this can include a degree or BTEC in dental technology and can be taken as either a full time course or in some cases a part time course alongside a trainee position.
Additional training and experience can lead to progressions within the field to dental technician management posts or clinical dental technician roles.
A qualified dental technician can expect a salary of £18,000 to £30,000.