Our experience – beginning life as a dentist
Recent BDA research has revealed that more than half of dentists aged under 35 are planning to leave the NHS within five years and 10% intend to exit the profession entirely.
In a recent BoDcast, Dr Austin Banner, Trustee of the BDA Benevolent Fund, also reported that more and more young dentists are contacting the charity for help.
Bearing this in mind, we caught up with Jasmine Lobo and Petros Mylonas, who are in the early stages of their careers, to find out about their experience of entering the dental profession.
Jasmine qualified in June 2017 from the University of Leeds and is currently working as a dental foundation trainee in Swansea in a mixed NHS-private practice. Petros graduated in 2012 and is currently a Research Fellow in Prosthodontics at King’s College London Dental Institute and a part-time GDP in private practice.
“The biggest shock of coming into the profession, is that you’re suddenly on your own and responsible for the decisions you’re making. Even though you’re trained at university to cope with this and you know that once you begin working in practice you can ask your colleagues any questions, there are, at times, difficult decisions to make and taking ownership of those has been a big challenge.
One of the main issues I have come across is getting used to dealing with the fact that anything, clinically-speaking, can come through the door. During training we were working in speciality clinics so you have an idea of the kind of patients you’ll be seeing and can prepare for that, but this is not the case in practice.
My time management skills are also definitely being tested, as, unlike in training, you only have a set amount of time to deal with each patient. Some patients, are just a straightforward examination whilst others can present with multiple or more complicated needs, but you only get the same amount of time with each. Learning to think quickly and on my feet is a skill I’m hoping to develop more during my foundation training.
Discussing payments with patients is difficult to get used to as well. At university you don’t have those discussions at all because the treatment you’re providing as a student is free. You are taught, as part of a consent-taking process, to mention the cost of each treatment option to a patient but you only really begin to understand how important it is when you apply that knowledge during foundation training.
I really enjoy working at the practice, the team is amazing and the patients are lovely, and I feel like I’m building on my skills all the time which is great. However, whilst I’m very happy where I am, I don’t see my career developing in primary care and plan to pursue oral and maxillofacial surgery.”
“Since completing my foundation training I’ve conducted two Dental Core Training (DCT) posts in restorative dentistry, oral surgery and medicine and an academic DCT post in restorative dentistry and oral and maxillofacial surgery. I’m now conducting my PhD focusing on the early signs of tooth wear at King’s College London Dental Institute. I additionally work in private practice and as an out-of-hours NHS dentist during the weekend.
I would say I am fairly unique as I had my career mapped out at the start for the next 10 to 15 years, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I had a role model who trained me and was one of the most respected dentists in the world in his particular field and I knew I wanted to do something similar to him, because I loved teaching and research aspects of dentistry. I’d developed some experience in teaching and I dabbled in some research early in my undergraduate studies and during my DCT years so I knew the career that I ultimately wanted was in academic restorative dentistry. That was the passion I had as an undergraduate.
To achieve my goal I, essentially, asked my professors a lot of questions about what they did and then mapped out what I needed to do from foundation training to get to that endpoint. I literally wrote down which DCT jobs to aim for, and then where/how to do a PhD.
I’m currently working in both a corporate and also a secondary care setting, and I’ve found the corporate I am working for to be excellent. They’ve really supported me and given me the opportunity to use my skill sets and expand other dentists within our corporate.
In the future, I see my career hopefully, as being a clinical and academic restorative dentist, where I can deliver good quality dentistry, and conduct research and teaching in the fields of tooth wear and denture care.”
Jasmine and Petros also took part in an NHS Insights Panel about the future of dentistry along with leading industry figures Eddie Crouch, David Houston, Simon Thackeray, Paul Worskett and Dhru Shah. You can read more about the panel’s discussion here.