Go to content

The challenges facing dental students of today

Students today face several challenges, from managing finances and fees alongside cost of living to the dedication and hard work required to complete the course.

Andrea Ogden
Andrea Ogden BSc BDS MJDF RCS (Eng.) PGcert Undergraduate and Career Development Lead

Dentistry is a challenging degree to complete and students face paying four years of fees plus five years of cost of living which has increased significantly over recent months. The amount of debt we are now seeing students leave dental school with is notable and the financial challenge of paying off student debts is compelling.

Dentistry is a rapidly advancing profession, keeping the vocation interesting as you are always learning more to keep up to date. Technologies, techniques, and materials are always improving meaning that the scope of what you can provide in general practice keeps getting bigger, yet the amount of time spent at dental school is still the same, which presents challenges for students.

The learning process

It’s important to remember that when students graduate, they are termed safe beginners. I remember the pressure I felt on my first day of Vocational Training, where I was eager to demonstrate I could be an effective, independent member of the team. The reality is graduation is just the very beginning of a long and exciting road of development, both clinically and professionally.

Graduation is just the very beginning of a long and exciting road of development."

In today’s online world, we frequently see social media posts of clinical cases. Although it can be a great tool to learn from and inspire us to continue to reflect and improve upon our own work, it can sometimes have a negative impact.

The gap between where we see ourselves clinically and where we want to be, particularly when we are students or in the early stages of our career, can feel enormous. When looking at some of these images, it’s easy to overlook the years of postgraduate training and the practice they required. It’s normally only the best cases that make it online, we rarely share the ones we wish we could improve!

The paradox of choice

When I was a student, I thought my career options were simple, general practice, community, specialty training or the armed forces. It was only as I embarked on my career that I began to see the huge variety and opportunity a dental degree opens to you. Today this information is much more accessible at undergraduate level through podcasts, career talks, articles, and social media. The paradox of choice is a well-known phenomenon of modern society. When faced with more options than we would necessarily desire, we can experience negative emotions, such as dissatisfaction, regret and choice paralysis.

Whilst all of this may seem daunting as a student, it’s important to remember you don’t need to have it all figured out the moment you graduate. Foundation or Vocational Training is a great opportunity to increase your skills and discover your interests. Plus, it opens a huge network of educational supervisors to help you make the next step.

You don’t need to have it all figured out the moment you graduate."

The challenge students face is significant and not to be ignored. But ultimately, with the right support, what awaits them beyond graduation is a 100% employment rate and the ability to create an interesting and varied career.

Here for you

Membership offers you benefits as a student and postgraduate. We support members through every step of the professional journey. Student members can also benefit from a graduate offer, giving you all the benefits of essential membership for just 49p a day. If you are a BDS or BChD student living in the UK with insufficient funds to afford your essential expenses, the BDA Benevolent Fund may be able to offer support to you.

We have over 166 hours of verifiable CPD per year available to members through our recently upgraded CPD hub. You can also access the BDJ portfolio and Europe’s largest dental library. As your trade union we will support you throughout your career journey, providing entry to your local and national network of peers to help you along the way.

You can also access expert advice on everything from postgraduate education to employment law including Associate contract checking which is worth £1000 on the high street. If you are interested in becoming a member you can find out more on our website or call us to join over the phone. Together we are stronger.