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Newly qualified dentist: Tips I wish I had before my dental foundation training

Blog Author Abeera Imran

Blog Date 25/09/2016

​​I began the year knowing that it would be a steep learning curve and I often wondered what working full time would be like, as the summer break was coming to an end.

I had been told by senior colleagues that I would complete more treatment in the first few weeks, than I had in the whole five years of university. This prospect was a daunting one to say the least! The first few weeks were especially tiring​ and a little nerve wracking. However, six months in and it is almost amusing to think something as simple as taking bitewings without coning off, would worry me.

Looking back, I know now a few pointers would have benefited me greatly. So, for the newly qualified dentists, who are going to start their dental foundation training in the future, here are some of my tips:​

1. Don’t be afraid to ask

By the time you start in September, most of you will not have picked up a drill for at least five months. For this reason, you will most likely be ‘rusty’ on even simple things such as charting, caries removal and diagnosing radiographs. 

If you feel slightly unsure and want your trainer to check the cavity is caries free, for example, then ask them to come in. You’ll find that your trainer will be happier that you asked rather than making a mistake out of fear of appearing foolish. Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question!

2. Identify the areas you feel unsure about

All of you will be coming from different universities, with different levels of experience. Most of you will feel stronger in some areas and less so in others. You should try to identify early on which areas you need to improve on - be proactive with your learning and take it into your own hands by reflecting on your progress. 

Tell your trainer what areas you feel like you need more support in and use this year to increase your confidence in those treatments. The areas of focus might change throughout the year, so adapt them and strive to have a good knowledge-base in all treatments. 

3. Pace yourself

At the beginning, be realistic with how much time you need to complete a treatment. It is not a competition to see how quickly you can complete a filling, a root canal or extraction. 

This year allows you the liberty to have longer appointment times, so take advantage of it. It is more important you are completing everything to the best of your abilities, rather than cutting corners to finish things faster. You will naturally become quicker over time.

4. Baby steps 

“Practice makes perfect” might sound clichéd but it really applies here. Take one treatment at a time. Try to start off with simple restorations and then move onto more complicated crown and onlay preps, for example. 

​And remember, don’t set yourself unrealistic expectations and be too hard on yourself. The first crown prep you do at the beginning of the year will feel like it was much harder as compared to when you’ve done a number of them by the end.​

5. Try and push yourself and set time goals

After the second to third month, you should try and speed up. The NHS time constraints mean you will eventually need to complete treatments in short appointment slots. 

Consciously set yourself time goals – for example, the next time you do the same treatment, try and complete it 10 minutes faster than the last time. Eventually, try to complete all the treatment required within a quadrant at the same appointment.

6. Use your study days to talk and unwind

During your study days, speak to the other dentists on your scheme about treatments or appointments you found challenging in the week. You’ll find everyone will probably have the same challenges and concerns as you. It will put your mind at ease to know that you aren’t the only one who found it hard the first time you accessed a tooth or found breaking bad news tough.

7. Dental foundation training is just the start

They call it ‘foundation’ for a reason – this year is the base on which you will continue to improve your skills and confidence. Don’​t expect to leave as the perfect dentist. Rather, one who is confident, passionate and always looking to improve the quality of treatment given to their patients.

Abeera ImranAbeera Imran, foundation dentist

Supporting young dentists: into practice

The BDA supports dentists at all stage in their careers – try out our Into Practice app, which has information for newly-qualified dentists and aims to help you make the transition into practice. The app is free for BDA members