General practice vs hospital posts
Whether immediately upon completing the FD training year, or even much later on in a career, dentists will have the option to work in different settings. These can vary greatly from practice to hospital, prisons, military and community environments. We are going to focus on the main differences between practice and hospital posts.
With hospital posts, there are no targets to meet – just a list of patients that have to be seen. Dentists are therefore paid a set wage like all other hospital employees. As a dental core trainee that salary can be as much as £48,075, with the added benefit that you are paid extra for overtime, weekends, and for being on-call. Consultants in dental specialities get paid the same amount as any other hospital consultant. However, it’s not just money where things differ.
Indeed, the whole career structure is different when you choose to work in the hospital setting. Firstly, the education pathway to get there differs for hospital dentists, and there are greater opportunities to gain experience in other aspects of practice, not just dentistry. For instance, you could choose to go down the Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology route or Dental and Maxillofacial, with the right training. As for mentorship during FD2, dentists benefit from both regular teaching and shadowing, whilst being able to enjoy an element of independence and autonomy at the same time.
Secondly, the way of working is different. It’s not 8-hour shifts with weekends off and routine appointments. You work when needed on a shift basis, which means nights, weekends, bank holidays and occasionally long hours attending to more specialist needs and emergency cases. It’s not suited to everyone, but for those who enjoy working outside of the 9-5 format and relish a challenge, it could be ideal. The cases may be more varied on a daily basis (on an average day a hospital dentist might see anything from facial trauma to severe dental abscesses). While this enhances one’s skillset and knowledge, it can be very challenging.
From both practice and hospital settings, there are opportunities to engage in medical research and studies, and to progress substantially in your career. Whether you’re looking to remain in general dentistry or take educational pathways towards specialisms, there both offer the chance to develop. Importantly, both environments can offer access to support and mentorship, which is crucial for dentists to advance – especially at the beginning of their careers or when moving into a new clinical field. It is important to check what structures are in place when considering a vacancy.
The other main point to consider is that there are fewer available vacancies for hospital dentists compared to general practice. That makes finding a role much more competitive and can be quite limiting from a geographical perspective. As a general practice dentist, you know that you could find a job anywhere, but if you want to work for a hospital dental service, you have to go where the hospitals are.