Get the right experience
If you decide that you want to go into general practice, there are a number of avenues you can go down. Just be aware that the length of time it takes to achieve your goals will very much depend on which one you choose. This is because some career pathways either require different boxes to be ticked first or a greater level of experience. As such, the best thing you could do after graduating is concentrate on consolidating your skills, increasing your competence and boosting your confidence, gaining the necessary qualifications along the way. Once you’ve got a few years’ experience of working in general dentistry under your belt, you can expand your horizons to perhaps look to grow your private services or move into more specialist treatments.
One of the biggest mistakes that a newly qualified dentist could make is to finish FD training and rush into areas of dentistry that they’re not ready for. If you truly want to master your skills, you need to walk before you run – there’s plenty of time to get to where you want to be. Besides, the first few years are essential in helping you to discover your strengths, weaknesses and areas of passion that you might not have even know were there. Indeed, you may think you know which direction you see your career going, but you’d be surprised how many people change their minds once they are in full-time practice. What’s more, it can be quite a steep learning curve leaving university and entering employment, so giving yourself time to adjust before giving yourself another hurdle to jump over is immensely important.
So, what are the possible pathways for dentists? Well, there are 13 fields that you can choose to specialise in. These are: Dental and Maxillofacial Radiology; Dental Public Health; Endodontics; Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology; Restorative Dentistry; Oral Medicine; Oral Microbiology; Oral Surgery; Orthodontics; Paediatric Dentistry; Periodontics; Prosthodontics; and Special Care Dentistry. Though not a specialism recognised by the GDC, dental implantology is another area that many dentists today are getting involved with – either on the surgical and/or restorative sides. All of these roles require additional training, qualifications and relevant experience, and as such can take several years to achieve.
At any point, you can still make a move into the other dental environments already mentioned, like community dentistry, working for the military and prison dentistry. These areas are crying out for experienced dentists, so it’s always worth bearing in mind should you fancy a change.
The other option is to buy your own practice, which again requires experience and a sound foundation of knowledge. If you hope to take this direction, it will be useful to gain as much experience of the business aspects of running a dental practice as possible. This might involve speaking to your principal(s), joining relevant professional organisations or societies, or attending events designed to provide insight into the world of practice ownership.
In truth, there are many different pathways to take – what’s important is that you work hard and follow your passion.