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Medicine, Medical Sciences & Research careers

Dentistry & Dental Hygiene

Why get into dentistry?

People in the United States commonly believe that most Brits have shocking teeth. I mean, if they see people like Prince Charles and Austin Powers kicking about, what else are they going to think?

However, this is simply nothing more than a mere generalisation. British dentists are some of the most highly-skilled practitioners in the world. If you want to get involved, there are various different areas of dentistry work that you can look to get into.

What can I do within dentistry?

There’s many different areas of dentistry that you can get your teeth into (please excuse that awful pun). You could be focusing your efforts on general dental care and running your own practice; you could specialise in hospital dental care; or you could even use your dental expertise in a wide variety of community settings.

If you’re feeling even more adventurous, you could take on a more niche technical role and work as an orthodontist, an oral surgeon or a maxillofacial prosthetist.

Alternatively, if you don’t fancy years and years of training or actually doing the drilling, poking and pulling, you could explore a career as a dental nurse or hygienist.

With all the responsibility you have as a dentist, you’re going to need to have the right qualifications. People are literally entrusting you with their pearly whites, so there’s no mucking around here.

Starting work as a dentist is not exactly straightforward. You can’t grab a pair of pliers from your dad’s tool box and just start yanking people’s teeth out. Understandably, you need extensive practical training and years of academic study before you can begin your exciting journey into other people’s mouths.

The only way to do this is to get an approved dentistry degree (either a BDS or a BChD). These courses are incredibly competitive and in order to stand a chance of getting a place, you will need a fistful of scientific A-levels (or equivalent) with high grades to match.

Something else that you might not have thought of already is that you’ll definitely need pretty good eyesight and a steady hand. You need to be able to see what you’re doing and be precise in your movements. After all, you don’t want to start pulling out the wrong teeth!

To become a dental hygienist or nurse, you won’t need the same kind of academic credentials as dentists. However, you will most likely need an official dental nursing qualification.

How do I get into dentistry?

It’s likely that all dentists will receive the same training. However, the area in which you choose to specialise post-qualification will determine your work environment, your patients and what kind of dental work you will be doing on a daily basis.

Dentists that move into the general dental care side of things are the people that we normally encounter the most. This is the most popular area of dentistry. These guys dictate their own hours and work in their own ‘practice’.

Essentially, they are the GPs of the dentistry world. Some will solely offer an NHS service and many will only do private work; however, some will dabble in a bit of both.

Hospital dental work is slightly different. These dentists work in hospitals or specialist dental hospitals and tend to deal with more difficult, rare or severe dental cases.

This is a slightly more challenging and intense area of dentistry, as you would usually work with patients who are in much more discomfort. This is also the home of orthodontists, dental surgeons and maxillofacial prosthetists (responsible for helping people in need of facial reconstruction surgery).

Dentists working in community dental care provide expert help for people that cannot access dental practices very easily, such as older people, infants, people with mental or physical disabilities or people with social care problems. You might be working in people’s homes or in different locations, such as prisons, homeless shelters or mobile clinics.

If you’re looking for a less technical role, you could look into becoming a dental nurse or dental hygienist. Dental nurses provide assistance to dentists when they are carrying out clinical treatments. However, they might also perform more routine procedures by themselves.

Dental hygienists work in more of an educational role. Typically, they educate patients in the care of teeth and gums. This role is becoming more and more popular these days, with more focus turning towards the prevention of dental decay.

If you’re nuts about ‘nashers’ and fancy a career helping everyone to maintain their Colgate smiles, then a career in dentistry and dental hygiene could be the one for you!