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Dental student FAQs

We understand that dental school can be overwhelming, and that valuable information can get lost in a sea of new knowledge.

With this in mind, we have compiled a list of the most frequent questions that we get from dental students. Read more about what we do, how we can help you right now, and how we can help throughout your career.

What is a trade union?

A trade union is a group of workers who use their collective bargaining power to protect and improve working conditions. Typical trade unions also provide a range of support to members. This could mean engaging in formal negotiations with the Government and employers on pay and conditions for workers, influencing political decision-makers on behalf of members, and organising industrial action like strikes.

Throughout history, trade unions have been vital in securing the rights that modern workers take for granted, like not working at the weekend. Today, trade unions play a critical role in protecting the rights of all sorts of workers including dentists.

What is the difference between a trade union and a professional membership organisation?

There is a significant overlap between the two kinds of organisation, but critically, a trade union's goal is to protect the interests of its members through formal negotiation with the Government. On the other hand, professional membership organisations seek to promote the interests of the profession, as well as enhancing public perception.

Being both a trade union and a professional membership organisation, we have the strengths of both. Our objectives include improving the working lives of our members, advancing the art, science, and ethics of dentistry, and boosting the nation's oral health.

What do you offer students as a trade union?

Even though dental students are not workers, we collectively represent you and advocate for improvements to your quality of life. These improvements can range from your clinical experience and general wellbeing to financial support. We regularly engage on your behalf with the Dental Schools Council, The UK Committee of Postgraduate Dental Deans and Directors, the NHS, the GDC, and others to fight for your collective interests.

We also ensure that your first job after graduation in Dental Foundation or Vocational Training has the best terms and conditions possible. When the Government tried to reduce pay for Foundation Dentists, we fought back and won.

How do you engage with the Government on behalf of students?

The British Dental Association Students Committee and the wider organisation meet regularly with key decision-makers to discuss critical issues including student finance, education and training, and student wellbeing. Alongside directly influencing key decision makers, the Students Committee and its representatives provide important input into our engagement with formal government consultations that relate to student issues.

How will being a member help us to make a difference in the world of dentistry?

Being a member allows you to get actively involved in shaping the world of dentistry, and you can participate locally and nationally. We are run for and by dentists, so you get a say in how we run things too. Our motto is ‘together we are stronger’ because the more members we have, the louder our voice is.

How do you work to improve public oral health?

We are a respected and vocal advocate for improving the oral health of the nation, and this is at the core of our founding mission. We do this by supporting our members to deliver the best care possible whether that is through our advisory services, our educational courses, or our campaign for a better NHS dental service.

We are also a strong advocate for preventative dentistry and supporting wider public health measures to improve oral health. In recent years, we have successfully campaigned for a tax on sugary drinks and for expanded access to HPV vaccinations, as dentists and dental care professionals see the symptoms of HPV in the oral cavities of their patients.

What support do you offer students?

We care about your finances and offer you money off full membership when you graduate. On signing up, student members can take advantage of a discount on student networking events through the BDSA such as conferences, competitions, and sports.

We have a wealth of recent articles, mock exams, and additional materials to support your studies. We also have extensive career guides plus the informative BDJ student magazine so you can feel confident and well-prepared when you start your first job as a dentist.

Everyone feels stressed and needs support sometimes. If study or work gets too much, while you are a member you can access round-the-clock counselling for yourself, your spouse, or a dependent.

How do you help students build a successful career?

Our popular Career guide and First job guide are excellent places to start for factual content based on lived experience. With so many ways you can practise as a dentist, it is essential reading to make sure you are on the career path that suits you best.

Navigating necessary legal registration requirements and dental contracts can be a challenge, especially when you are starting out. We explain everything you need to know clearly and in one place.

Dentistry is an exciting field because it is constantly changing, but it is challenging to stay ahead of the game when you have a full workload. Reading the BDJ online every fortnight is a quick way to get reliable information on all the developments you need to know about.

Join the BDA today

Become a student member

Our student membership provides the resources and support to help you succeed as a dental student and make the right start in your career. From saving you money on popular BDSA events to offering you 1000s of dental textbooks and eBooks – we're here to help. You'll also get access to free counselling, free of charge 24/7, 365 days a year.
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