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General practice

There are several career options for dentists in general dental practice, including working for the NHS, mixed or private practice. Dentists also have the choice of working for different types of employers such as dental corporates or independent practices.

NHS dental practice

Working in an NHS dental practice offers plenty of variety as well as the chance to meet and treat patients from a wide socio-demographic background. NHS practice gives dentists an opportunity to be involved in fundamentally changing and improving patients’ lives, which can offer a huge sense of career satisfaction.

There are some challenges to contend with, the most notable being the requirement to complete Units of Dental Activity (UDA) targets. We campaign on pay and contracts on behalf of NHS dentists [LINK TO CAMPAIGN] to urge for much-needed improvements.

Mixed dental practice

Most UK dental practices operate under a mixed dental practice model, offering both NHS and private dentistry. Offering NHS and private care alongside each other can address many issues faced by practitioners; however, the practitioner must ensure that the patient fully understands the arrangements and the costs involved.

While a mix of NHS and private care may be confusing for the patient, such arrangements offer the opportunity for all treatment needs and expectations to be met, increasing patient satisfaction and professional fulfilment.

Private dental practice

Some dental practices in the UK offer purely private treatment. Unlike NHS or mixed practice, private practice dentistry is solely between the practitioner and the patient. In private practice the NHS is not there as a third party to determine how you practise, how you advise your patients and the amount you charge for your work.

Although private practice gives you greater control, it comes at the cost of security in terms of income, sickness, and pensions. In addition, private patients will have higher expectations that can be expensive to manage. Initially most dentists in practice start off working within the NHS until they have enough experience to move away from the NHS to a purely private practice.

Specialist private dental practice

Completion of Foundation Training and the MJDF/MFDS examination [LINK TO AFTER GRADUATION PAGE] are important for a successful application to specialist training posts. Most programmes are a minimum of three years and demand a degree of personal and financial sacrifice. After completing training and exams dentists receive a Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training (CCST) and can join the specialist list, using the title ‘specialist’.

The rewards for specialists are being in control of their time and providing a high standard of care using the latest techniques, equipment and materials. Working with other specialist colleagues provides immense job satisfaction and helps to enhance and maintain professional interests.

Dental corporates

Corporate bodies offer wider opportunities for development and greater security, but they may also be restrictive. Larger corporates have expanded quickly and have systems that take care of most administrative matters for dentists, leaving space to concentrate on dentistry.

Training opportunities in some of the large corporates are plentiful and discounted, with CPD readily available. Specialising can be easier in a corporate environment, but if you are an associate at a corporate, it may be more difficult to get the experience needed to become a practice owner or to nurture opportunities for practice ownership.

Dentists with special interests in practice

Working as a Dentist with a Special Interest (DwSI) lies between routine general dental practice and specialist practice. DwSI provides opportunities to perform orthodontics, minor oral surgery, conscious sedation, special care dentistry, endodontics, and periodontics.

The aim is to provide patients with rapid access to specialised services close to their home, reducing unnecessary hospital referrals. The exact training and accreditation requirements vary between different specialised areas, although accreditation tends to involve the production of a portfolio of cases and demonstration of experience and competence.

[Find out more about working in general dental practice in our Career Guide.]