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Employed dentistry

There are several career options for dentists in employed dentistry, including public health, academia, and armed services.

Hospital Dental Services

The hospital dental service provides specialist advice and treatment for difficult cases and provides outpatient care in cases where there are complex medical considerations. Specialist hospital services are provided from local acute hospitals and dental teaching hospitals.

Dentists working in hospital posts have the same terms and conditions of service as hospital doctors, as well as a very similar career structure. The hours may not be flexible, and time will be spent ‘on call’, sometimes resulting in long working sessions. HDS dentists generally work as part of a team, have access to specialised diagnostic facilities, and work with consultants from other medical and dental specialties.

Community dentistry

Community dentistry is officially called the Salaried Primary Dental Care Service in England and Wales (SPDCS), the Public Dental Service (PDS) in Scotland and the Community Dental Service (CDS) in Northern Ireland.

This is a managed service in which dentists have a contract of employment to fulfil and service standards to meet. Salaried primary care dentists work in different clinical settings with a variety of support staff. Domiciliary visits and mobile surgeries are a routine part of the service. Visiting patients at home is often necessary which can give dentists more information on social history, living conditions and the effect this may have on compliance with advice.

Dental public health

Dentists in public health are either employed as consultants or employed having followed a training programme. The service provided includes assessing oral health and the dental needs of the population, promoting oral health and preventive dental measures for the population, and providing advice and information to the public and media on dental issues.

Consultants and trainees in dental public health follow similar training pathways as secondary care specialties. Dentists can also broaden their horizons and move into general public health after taking specialist training to move into the area.

Academic dentistry and dental research

To work in academic dentistry and research, dentists first need to qualify by undertaking DFT/VT, and then MFDS or MJDF. Following this they will need to embark on clinical training to match their NHS consultant colleagues. Obtaining a PhD is also an essential ingredient for dentists wishing to follow a full-time career and this can be a part of clinical training. Some dentists elect to do this training on a full-time basis by obtaining an academic training fellowship.

Dental clinical academics combine clinical work with research, which has the potential to change future working practices. This research may be on a range of subjects that include biomaterials, clinical procedures, or public health initiatives. Clinical academics may be employed either full-time or part-time. The workload is often split between NHS secondary care practice, research, and undergraduate teaching. However, there is variation in academic contracts, which may be either predominantly teaching or research focussed.

Armed forces

Military dentistry provides treatment for soldiers, sailors, and air force personnel. The Defence Dental Services are responsible for providing dental care at 200 locations for over 196,000 service personnel. Overseas, it also provides primary dental care for service families and entitled civilians. Each Dental Officer, at clinic level, has approximately 1,100 patients to look after. The equipment and surgeries are modern, and a wide range of dental materials are available.

Direct entry by graduates into all three services is available up to 55 years of age. Candidates must have a dental qualification which is registrable in the United Kingdom, be physically fit and in good health. Each service has a selection process, after this commissions are confirmed following completion of the Officers Basic Military Training Course.

Download our career guide to find out more about employed career paths.