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Diary of a young hospital dentist: starting out as a DCT

Blog Author Surina Bhola

Blog Date 30/11/2016

​Hospital dentist Surina Bhola gives her ‘101 guide’ to what you’ll need when starting out as a dental core trainee. Coffee? Check. Pen torch? Check. Deodorant? Oh yes…


Diary entry

surina-blog-lets-do-it.jpgLet us start with something simple for my second blog post. I’m calling it, Surina’s ‘guide to starting out in OMFS DCT 101’, which I hope will be helpful for any new DCTs who are starting out in an oral maxillofacial surgery post.

Things you’ll need:


  • Coffee: the first few months will be long and tiring, don’t disregard that medium skinny latte with two shots of coffee, just don’t blame me for your bank balance at the end of the month. And remember, sugar is really bad for your teeth!
  • A sense of humour: there will be stressful times, and times where you feel lost. Don’t panic, we’ve all been there, and some of us still are. Talk to friends, colleagues, partners, this really helps let off steam.
  • A positive attitude: if you don’t know the complex pathways of all cranial nerves on day one, which may be the day your consultant asks you this question, instead of doing a Bridget Jones and going home to cry in your pillow, just admit you don’t know and ask, or go and look it up. Which leads us onto…
  • A willingness to learn: DCT is what you make it. Mistakes are part of the learning process and essential for you to improve. No one is perfect, even though some might do a darn good job of acting like they are.
  • Deodorant: don’t question this one, just go with it and make sure you have a stash.
  • A pen torch: preferably a battery operated one that is actually powerful. So many times on clinic I thought my patients had magically lost pupillary reflexes in my presence, but it turns out it was just a weak light. You laugh now, but you will appreciate this when you panic in your first week. And keep some spare batteries handy.
  • Black pens: these are like gold dust, and unless you are going to guard it with your life, I would advise against using that personalised MontBlanc®. I speak from personal experience.
  • A notebook: you’ll have a million things to do, and lots of information to retain, get it out of your brain, and onto paper, and the weight is off your shoulders and you have something to refer back to.
  • Know who the go to is: every hospital has its own guidelines and paperwork, make sure you get VERY familiar with extension numbers, who to contact, and all your seniors contact details (write them down in the front of that notebook or use an app – see below).

Optional fancy extras:

  • Stethoscope: in my job, this is not required yet, but if you are working in a larger hospital, you may find one useful.
  • A lanyard: you’ll have a million ID and swipe cards, and it’s also good for hanging a pen/torch/card off.


Useful apps:

  • Hospital induction app: in some hospitals, they will give you access to an app, which allows you to easily search extension numbers. It may be a good idea to write the important ones down in that notebook of yours.
  • MicroguideTM: our hospital might give you access to an app that has the latest clinical guidelines uploaded. Ask if they have one.
  • NICE British National Formulary
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery SHO app: this app is available with all the basic information when you’re starting out and is a great quick reference guide if you forget any information.
  • BDA CPD hub: log your CDP and keep it stored in one handy place for future reference. Also get access to some free CPD modules for BDA members

Recommended reading:

These are all available free on loan from the BDA Library:

  • Dentist on the ward – Andrew Sadler and Leo Cheng
  • Oxford Handbook of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery – Luke Cascarini, Claire Schilling, Ben Gurney, Peter Brennan
  • On call in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery – Alexander Goodson, Arpan Tahim, Karl Payne, Kathleen Fan, Nabeela Ahmed

Hope this information is useful, and good luck! It’ll be challenging, but it’ll also be fun.

The things you will learn in your first year will astound you, and your confidence and skills will grow by the minute!

Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss anything further.

Surina Bhola

Dental Core Trainee/SHO

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