Advantages of Dental Core Training
1. Expand knowledge
After graduation, most dentists will undertake one year of dental foundation training (DFT) or vocational training (VT). This can be followed by up to three years of dental core training (DCT). This allows recent graduates to enhance their skills further and expand their knowledge into one or more specialty areas. This pathway provides a dedicated learning environment, directed by senior specialists in the field, and is therefore ideal for anyone looking to enter the specialty training programmes or those looking to provide more comprehensive treatments in practice.
2. Character building
Working in an environment outside of general practice encourages organisation and time management, team work, communication skills and a deeper understanding of one’s individual limitations. It also requires the ability to work under pressure, the flexibility to adapt to new environments and the ability to use your initiative when faced with a new challenge. Not everyone will be suited to this role. Some personalities will thrive whilst others will find it too challenging. It is important to know the right role for you!
3. Practical skills
It is often difficult for dentists isolated in general practice to develop their clinical armamentarium, as they are (quite rightly) unwilling to trial new skills or techniques in the absence of appropriate supervision and guidance. DCT provides a safe and controlled environment to develop a more comprehensive skillset under the supervision of senior specialists and gives trainees the opportunity to perform treatments that are not usually conducted in general practice.
4. Career pathway
Undergoing a year of DCT provides an opportunity to branch out and work in a specialty you may never have considered. Trying new experiences allows you to develop a list of specialties you like or dislike and may highlight the drawbacks of a planned career pathway. If you decide to return to general dental practice, then nothing is lost as each training post will provide you with a particular set of skills and experiences to take forward with you. Should you choose to pursue specialty training, you will be required to complete DCT posts prior to your application, and these posts will also give you the opportunity to conduct audit, research, presentations and publications, which are essential for specialty training post applications.
Drawbacks of Dental Core Training
1. Career progression
For those hoping to settle in general practice, a common concern is that taking a year out to work in a DCT post may delay building up a long-term patient base, and may contribute to deskilling and a reduced efficiency when returning to practice. For those based in NHS practices, it is worth noting that your performer number will be deactivated if a claim is not made for any work in practice within one year, and reactivating a performer number may delay a return to practice. However, overall, such concerns are often unfounded, and the vast majority of dental core trainees are able to transition smoothly from DCT posts to general practice.
The newly implemented national recruitment system means that, while candidates are able to preference locations of the posts they wish to apply for, they may be offered a job in a location that is not their first choice. This can be difficult for those with families to support or commitments in a particular area of the country; this may influence whether or not to apply for DCT.
When compared to general practice, earning potential is often a bit lower in DCT posts, with an average annual wage of approximately £37,191. Financial considerations, such as outstanding student loans, supporting families and saving for the future, may influence whether taking on a DCT post is worth the potential loss of earnings. It is difficult to take a pay cut once settled with an associate income, so for those wishing to undertake DCT, it would be advisable to apply for these jobs as soon as Dental Foundation Training (DFT) has been completed. It is worth noting that DCT posts are salaried, allowing a fixed continuous income and the freedom to provide treatment (within reason) without having to consider finances for both yourself and the patient.
Having completed DFT, most young dentists become accustomed to the independence that comes with being a general dental practitioner. It may seem difficult at first having to answer to a senior about the decisions you make for your patients, but persevere! Once they can see your abilities and gauge your competence, they will allow you to progress in a guided manner on cases you wouldn’t be able to manage prior to DCT.
There are clearly a number of factors that will influence whether or not you choose to undertake a DCT post following completion of DFT. On balance, the authors’ experience, having completed DCT posts, is that DCT is a very worthwhile experience, which will benefit all young dentists, regardless of their desired career pathway.