Dentists are healthcare professionals who are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of a range of problems that affect the mouth and teeth.
Dentists may also be called a dental surgeon or dental practitioner.
The work of a dentist
Dentists provide a wide range of services, including:
- diagnosis, care and treatment of oral diseases
- preventative treatments
- perform treatments like fillings, extractions and cleaning of teeth
- take X-rays
- oral health advice
- emergency dental services
- provision of dental appliances like orthodontic appliances, dentures, crowns and bridges
The majority of dentists work in General Dental Practice. As a dentist in general practice you commonly work as an associate, and could go onto become a partner in the practice or own your own dental practice.
However, many opportunities also exist within hospital and community settings. Dentists often manage a team of people encompassing dental nurses, dental hygienists, dental therapists and dental technicians.
Dentists are required to have a number of specific skills and personality traits. You should have a good capacity to learn and make sense of scientific knowledge and an ability to apply that knowledge in a clinical setting. You should also have:
- good social and interpersonal skills
- physical skills like movement, coordination and dexterity
- an ethical approach to people
- confidence to make decisions
- good administrative skills
- good managerial and leadership skills
- good IT skills
Queen's University Belfast offers a Bachelor of Dental Surgery, a full time, five-year programme. For information on the entry requirements and the selection process, contact the university directly. For undergraduate full-time programme, application should be made through Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).
While the majority of graduates become general dental practitioners, a proportion pursue an academic career. As a result of this, Queen's graduates hold many senior university posts in the UK.
Others are attracted by the prospect of a hospital career and apply for dental core positions within hospitals in Northern Ireland. Specialist training is available, where you follow the same career structure and training pathway as a hospital doctor.
The Community Dental Service also provides a further interesting and rewarding opportunity for graduates, providing care for patients who cannot be treated in general practice.
On successful completion of your degree of Bachelor of Dental Surgery (QUB) you will be immediately eligible to register with the General Dental Council (the professional regulator for all dental professionals in the UK). This is a full qualification for dental practice.
However following graduation, most dentists will join Dental Foundation Training (DFT). This is the NHS/HS training scheme for graduates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Through this scheme Foundation Dentists (FDs) spend a year in approved practices, working on standard contracts.
DFT introduces new graduates to general practice and gives them a protected environment to work in for a year. Each foundation training practice has a trainer dentist, officially known as an 'educational supervisor’ (ES) who provides the FD with supervision and help whenever it is needed, as well as meeting with the FD for regular tutorials.