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Top tips for the journey ahead as a newly-qualified dentist

Blog Author Shaadi Manouchehri

Blog Date 01/11/2016


Shaadi graduated with Honours from Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry in 2015 and is currently working as a Dental Core Trainee in Paediatric Dentistry at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital following completion of her Dental Foundation Training Year. Here she shares her top tips, following her experience of being let lose in the real world of dentistry!

Growing up

It would probably come as a shock to absolutely no one to hear that the first day of a new job is going to be challenging.

I had previously had lots of experience working in retail and interacting with customers and colleagues alike, having started working part time during my studies from the young age of 16.

However my first day as a newly-qualified dentist was completely different from anything I had experienced before and nothing like my experience of working as a fashion advisor.

All of a sudden I was responsible for looking after actual people and not just garments. If I was having an off day, I could do considerably more damage than helping someone commit a crime of fashion!

I remember shadowing a newly-qualified dentist as part of my beloved work experience. Even at that time I thought: “How is it possible to carry so much responsibility at only 25 years old?”

Little did I know that I would be even younger when it would be my turn.

After the success of completing dental school and possibly the most amazing summer break of my life, it was time to put on my new clothes, just like a kid starting a New Year at school, and begin my Dental Foundation Training Year.

What I did not realise was that, as a newly-qualified dentist in mint condition, still in original packaging, a three-month break from dentistry over the summer means that your skills feel a little bit dusty.

So all that knowledge of dentistry that you accumulated for your finals seems like a distant memory when you first start. You will have palpitations when you see your first patient and you will forget what teeth should look like, let alone what a BPE is.

But it gets easier. I promise.

Fight or flight?

At dental school, a tough day would be seeing four or five patients but looking at the diary on my first day, I found nine patients were booked in.

My fight or flight response kicked right in and I found myself running around the practice asking everyone what a BPE is. Slight exaggeration, but definitely loosely based on true events!

It didn’t help that my trainer was going to be away for my first week due to unforeseen circumstances.

But the rest of the team were very kind and supportive and I’m happy to report that my first day ended without any casualties: both myself and my patients survived this monumental day.

Top tips for starting out in your first real job

1. Learn to love the paperwork

To begin with, there are many things to get accustomed to: you will suddenly be charging patients for the service you provide and there is a fair bit of paperwork to get your head around which will seem overwhelming at first, but will become second nature very quickly.

Completing your notes may seem intimidating at first, especially with all this concern over litigation and the constant fear of a letter from the GDC.

But if you use templates, you will find that completing your notes becomes straight forward, and all those late nights spent typing away on MSN Messenger as a teenager have been preparing you for this moment, and typing up your notes will be a breeze!

2. Embrace the variety

Depending on where your practice is based, you will get a range of different clinical experiences. My practice was based in a deprived area of London and in my first few months, I did more Molar Endodontics, Crown Preparations and Dentures than I had done during all my years as a student combined.

I got used to taking my own radiographs and the luxury of having a nurse all to myself. I began to pick up pace and was seeing more and more patients every day. Suddenly having nine patients booked in was not all that bad.

I had complete control over my diary and could book as long as I wanted for various procedures and found that this time reduced significantly over the course of the year.

3. Breathe and consider

Don’t be disheartened by a slow start, that is to be expected. Resist the urge to compare yourself with the other dentists at the practice as they will understandably be working differently to you.

Rest assured that your time management skills will improve drastically over the year and you will become familiar with the fine art of multi-tasking. Even the men.

4. Keep learning

Keep up with your learning portfolio, MJDF exam, case presentations, audits and Dental Core Training interviews. It may all seem like too much at first, but you will get everything done in due course, stick at it.

Once you start adjusting to your new grown-up life and get accustomed to managing lots of different patients, you start to focus some of your energy on the million and one other things you have to do.

Again, slight exaggeration but definitely based on true events.

Make the most of your DFT year

It’s fair to say that my DFT year definitely had a steep learning curve with many ups and downs throughout.

There were days where all I wanted to do was to build a pillow fort to hide in and cry and others were I wanted to leap with joy and felt on top of the world.

It is a very rewarding year during which you will grow in confidence and skill.

Make sure you make the most of it as it definitely is a year that can define you as a dentist and set you up beautifully for the rest of your career.

Best of luck and don’t forget to look up what a BPE is before your first day! xx

Shaadi Manouchehri

BDA Young Dentists

The BDA supports dentists at all stages of their careers. If you are newly-qualified check out our starting out section and download our Into Practice app for top tips and advice on the essentials of working in practice.

BDA Advice offers members a range of resources on key topics including consent, careers and dealing with complaints.

Our Young Dentist Committee​ represents dentists who have been qualified for up to 10 years across the UK. The Committee champions the affairs of younger and newly-qualified dentists in terms of policy making, political lobbying and improving the quality of working life for young dentists.​