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Dental Core Training: what is it really like?

Blog Author Gurpreet Kaur Randhawa

Blog Date 19/11/2019


Photo credit: Getty Images


I am currently working as a DCT2 in Restorative Dentistry and Child Dental Health in a dental hospital. My previous post as a DCT1 in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS) was in a district general hospital.  

There is a large difference in the working environment of both posts and this blog discusses my own personal experiences of doing Dental Core Training (DCT) and aims to help understand what to expect and the challenges that you may face. 

Coming to the end of Dental Foundation Training it can be difficult to know what the next step is. You have spent many years in compulsory education and five years experiencing the ups and downs of dental undergraduate training. 

You have completed your foundation training and now the decision is in your hands. What next? Some of you will have many aspirations and will know what you are destined for. Others of you will be thinking ‘so where do I go from here?’

A DCT post is a good way to increase your breadth of skills and experience in areas that may interest you or to start your pathway to specialist training. 

A big difference between my two training posts is the working hours. 
As a DCT1 in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS) there was a large on call commitment, working night shifts as well as weekend hours. Being a person of routine I found the shift pattern challenging, however there were others that adapted well. If you are a night owl, then this may suit you. 

My DCT2 post in a dental hospital, however, has been normal working hours which leaves plenty of time for other activities to build your portfolio such as audit, as well as extracurricular activities!

Being an OMFS DCT can pose a fast paced challenge. During on call commitments you often need to balance maintaining the wellbeing of ward patients with assessing and treating patients in the emergency department, as well as taking bleeps from other hospitals and dental practices for referrals. 

The job develops your time management and organisational skills and the ability to prioritise tasks. Life in a dental hospital is comparatively slower paced but requires the same organisational and management skills. 

This year I have a mix of consultant clinics and treatment sessions. It may seem that you are not seeing the same volume of patients as in general practice, however the cases you treat are often more complex and have been referred in by general dental practitioners, providing a valuable learning experience.  

Although a hospital is a busy environment and there is support from your second on call and consultant, being an OMFS DCT on call can be isolating especially during those long night shifts, but it is also character building. 

As a restorative DCT in a dental hospital, the sociable working hours mean there will always be other DCT colleagues around, as well as constant support from senior registrars and consultants. 

A dental hospital is a good environment to improve and build on your portfolio and other skills by means of audits, presentations and case reports and there are often study sessions or free time to work on these areas. 
The same opportunities are available as an OMFS DCT however these may need to be completed outside of working hours. Due to the busy hospital environment in OMFS can be more difficult to seek help with these projects but support is always available.

Teaching is an area that many dental core trainees wish to develop to enhance their portfolio. As a DCT in OMFS I found that that teaching opportunities were harder to come by due to the busy rota. There were opportunities to teach other DCTs in study sessions but there were more challenges in organising teaching for other health professions on busy and demanding wards. 

In the dental hospital, I have found that there are plenty more teaching opportunities by means of educating others in the department via presentations at various clinical clubs and also teaching undergraduates and supporting final years through their application and interviews for dental foundation training. 

Both undergraduates and other dental care professionals can provide a vast opportunity for teaching of clinical and non-clinical skills. 

The OMFS department that I worked in was a leading centre for oncology and theatre sessions provided me with the chance to observe and assist in major head and neck cancer cases which was a real eye opener. 

There were also opportunities to assist in trauma cases, orthognathic surgery, oral surgery lists and other head and neck procedures. My particular post did not have a large emphasis on oral surgery so this is something to be wary about before applying. If you are interested in oral surgery then ensure that your post will give you the opportunity for hands on oral surgery to give you more experience. 

Personally, I found my year as an OMFS DCT more challenging, but it was a good character builder. Your experience will vary post to post and depending on the hospital where you are based. I’d definitely recommend DCT to new graduates, as both environments have provided invaluable learning opportunities.

gurpreet-randhawa-thumbnail-125px.jpgGurpreet Kaur Randhawa, DCT2 Restorative Dentistry 


Interested in doing a DCT post?

Read more about dental core training and other career paths in dentistry in our careers pages.



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