As a dentist you can work in a variety of different areas.
General Dental Practice
Most dentists choose to work as General Dental Practitioners (GDPs). In order to do this a dentist must undertake Vocational Training or Foundation Training (VT / FT). After, the dentist enters an established practice as an associate (a self-employed dentist but working in a practice owned by someone else), later, she/he may become a practice owner (principal), either by becoming a partner, buying a practice or establishing a new practice.
Hospital practice is highly specialised and dentists tend to see fewer patients than GDPs, but their treatment is usually more complex as they have generally been referred. Hospital dentists receive a salary and often work as part of a team. The hours are not as flexible and time can be spent 'on call' resulting in long working sessions. Within the hospital service there is a defined career structure and training pathway, and advancement requires obtaining recognised postgraduate qualifications.
The Community Dental Service (CDS) provides dental care for patients with special needs. Work in the CDS is demanding, but very rewarding and dentists can undertake managerial and research duties. These posts are salaried and there is a defined career structure.
Research is undertaken at universities, and is usually combined with teaching at the university dental school. This can provide the opportunity to pursue a particular interest in greater detail. University dental teachers will have gained postgraduate qualifications and can progress to become senior lecturers or professors.
The armed forces provide a comprehensive dental service for servicemen and women, both abroad and in the UK. Dentists hold a commissioned rank and there is a very structured career path. If you choose to practise in the armed forces, financial scholarships may be available during your dental studies. Also, the salary structure on the Vocational Training (VT) period is different from that of its counterparts.
Some large companies offer a dental service to their employees. These posts are salaried but the role is equivalent to that of a general dental practitioner.
Alternatively dentists may work for a corporate body, some of which actively recruit dentists from overseas. The BDA has an advice sheet on working for corporate bodies, which is available to members.