Career pathways in general dental practice – filling the big void

In this article, originally published in the British Dental Journal, members of the College’s Career Pathways programme explore the need for defined career structures in the oral healthcare team and explain how CGDent’s Career Pathways aims to fill the big void. 

Those who carve out a career in primary dental care have been almost unique amongst healthcare professionals in not having defined career structures to support their professional development, notwithstanding the multitude of training opportunities open to them.

There are many causes for this: the high level of autonomy in general dental practice; the limited overall regulation of post-qualification training in primary dental care; and the limited support for both career enhancement and resulting reward from the NHS. Yet the vast majority of NHS dentistry takes place in general dental practice. Existing structured career pathways in dentistry have been successfully and comprehensively created under the auspices of the Faculty of Dental Surgery of each UK Royal College of Surgeons. However, these have been designed almost entirely for supporting dentists undergoing Specialist Training.

There has been a pressing need to create some form of structure that is fit for modern careers in general dental practice for the following reasons:

  • Providing recognition of professional development and training for all dental professionals working both in NHS and private practice, and salaried services;
  • Promoting job satisfaction and workforce retention;
  • Inspiring public confidence in the post-qualification professional development of dental professionals;
  • Complementing NHS workforce development plans;
  • Engaging the oral healthcare team holistically – not just individuals in isolation.

However, a delicate balance also needs to be struck between a structure for career development, minimising regulatory burden, and allowing for the flexibility and independence that have been an attraction for many in general dental practice.

The College of General Dentistry, the successor organisation of FGDP(UK) since July 2021, has been working for the last two years to create pathways for dental professionals which will allow for such a balance. Furthermore, since oral healthcare provision requires the involvement of the whole team, the pathways have been designed with all members of the team in mind.

Our starting point has been the definition of career “inflection points” for an individual’s professional journey. We have purposely not adopted terminology which might have currency today, but might well change as trends and policies evolve. In other words, we have gone back to first principles: what might we expect or wish a person to be able to do, as their skills evolve over a career?

Our next step has been to design a Professional Framework of capabilities that would be expected for each of those career stages. We convened Working Groups for each dental professional group: dental hygienists; dental therapists; dental nurses; dentists; dental technicians. Each group has drawn together these capabilities under five domains, which has resulted in a total of 22 skills. The five domains have been identified as:

  • Clinical and Technical
  • Professionalism
  • Reflection
  • Development
  • Agency

The result: our recently published College of General Dentistry Professional Framework. This publication lays out a blueprint, addressing a gaping void that has been present in primary care dentistry. Individuals are encouraged to use it in reflecting on their own progress, and organisations to adopt it in support of their teams, and their workforce planning and development.

Our own next step will be the introduction of our Certified Membership Scheme, soon to be rolled out. This will be the means by which an individual demonstrates they are practising with the capabilities defined for each career stage, and achieve recognition through College post-nominals. Unlike assessments of the past, this will not be based on examination. It will be a journey over two years along an individualised reflective personal development plan, where support from a Facilitator is provided. Gateway qualifications from a range of accredited providers will form part of this journey and our Scheme will enhance the value of these qualifications. The components of Certified Full Membership for dentists, demonstrating capabilities of an Experienced Practitioner, is illustrated below – allowing awarding of the post-nominal Cert MCGDent. This will typically, but not exclusively, appeal to those who have recently completed Foundation Training. Parallel pathways are being developed for each stage of the pathway and, most importantly, for all oral healthcare team members.

We think this is a fresh and unique approach to career progression, and we believe it is consistent with the needs and aspirations of the next generation of dental professionals. The time has now come for the profession to seriously consider the future of careers in primary care, and this College is mapping a bright future for the whole team.


  • Abhijit Pal, President – College of General Dentistry
  • Janet Clarke MBE, Chair of Trustees – College of General Dentistry
  • Roshni Karia, Chair of Certified Membership Scheme Working Group – College of General Dentistry
  • Avijit Banerjee, Chair of Careers Pathway Programme Board – College of General Dentistry
  • Shamir Mehta, Chair of Careers Pathway Reference Group – College of General Dentistry
  • Simon Thornton-wood, Chief Executive of the College of General Dentistry

The Version of Record of this article is published in the British Dental Journal, and is available online at

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College launches Professional Framework for dental careers

The College has launched its much-anticipated Professional Framework, which describes the expected level of a dental practitioner’s capabilities at each stage of their careers.

Aimed at providing recognition of professional development and promoting job satisfaction and workforce retention, Career Pathways in Dentistry: Professional Framework sets out the knowledge, skills and other attributes which define each of five career stages – safe, capable, experienced, enhanced and accomplished – for each role in the primary dental care team, and for each of five domains within each stage – clinical and technical, professionalism, reflection, development, and agency.

The framework has been mapped out by four working groups – representing dentists, dental hygienists & therapists, dental nurses & orthodontic therapists, and dental & clinical dental technicians – working together through a programme board and reference group.

The creation of career pathways for general dental practice was a key founding purpose of the College, and the Professional Framework provides the intellectual foundation of our Career Pathways in Dentistry programme, which is supported by Colgate.

The College is also developing a Certified Membership scheme, which will provide dental professionals with the tools to guide their individual postgraduate development journey. This will present the opportunity to embark on a pathway that fits in with personal learning and training goals using a flexible, modular approach supported by a facilitated, reflective personal development plan. It will also provide a structure through which those already established in their careers can further develop their career aspirations and/or mentor less experienced colleagues. This unique proposition, which will be for all members of the dental team, will enable dental professionals to demonstrate that they have met the capabilities for each career stage as defined in the Professional Framework. Progressing along the scheme will be a journey of professional development, rather than an end-point examination, and one in which the individual will be supported.

Dr Abhi Pal, President of the College, and Professor Avijit Banerjee, Chair of the College’s Career Pathways Programme Board, said:

“Those who carve out a career in the primary dental care sector have been almost unique within healthcare professions in not having defined career structures to support their professional development, despite the presence of multiple training opportunities.

The CGDent Professional Framework adopts an innovative approach which encourages flexibility for dental professionals to meet their practice and career aspirations, whilst recognising milestones along their often varied professional journeys, by providing a clear and coherent supporting structure.

It is a product made for dental professionals and by dental professionals, and the College owes its thanks to the many dentists, hygienists, therapists, nurses and technicians who have contributed to it, as well as to Colgate for their generous support that has enabled it to be completed.”

Career Pathways in Dentistry: Professional Framework is available for all dental professionals to download free of charge.

The College is inviting feedback on the Professional Framework in order to refine it and make it as robust as possible, and encourages dental professionals to explore it, test it out, and consider how they might use it to support their own development as well as that of colleagues. Feedback should be submitted online here

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Dentistry Show London

Dentistry Show London

7-8 October 2022ExCel London, Halls N5-N8

The College was the headline education partner for the Clinical Excellence Theatre at Dentistry Show London 2022, hosting nine seminars in three CPD theatres over the two-day conference.

The College welcomed members and non-members alike to its sessions, with experts in their fields sharing their knowledge and giving advice on an array of subjects encompassing clinical dentistry, professionalism and career support:

Introduction to facial aesthetics and the current educational pathways

Friday 7 October, 10.10am – 10.55am

Clinical Excellence Theatre

Dr Jalpesh Patel BDS (Hons), MJDF RCS Eng., MSc (Aes. Dent.), PG Cert (Aes. Med.), MCGDent; Programme Director, CGDent Postgraduate Certificate in Non-Surgical Facial Aesthetics; Founder & Tutor, RASA Academy

Duty of Candour: the legal and regulatory risk

Friday 7 October, 10.45am – 11.45am

Compliance Hub

Kevin Lewis BDS, Dip. FFGDP(UK), FDS RCS (Eng.), FCGDent; Trustee of the College of General Dentistry; Special Consultant to the BDA & BDA Indemnity

Professionalism – a medico-legal perspective

Friday 7 October, 12.00pm – 1.00pm

Compliance Hub

Kevin Lewis BDS, Dip. FFGDP(UK), FDS RCS (Eng.), FCGDent; Trustee of the College of General Dentistry; Special Consultant to the BDA & BDA Indemnity

Creating a positive patient safety culture in dentistry

Friday 7 October, 2.15pm – 3.00pm

Enhanced CPD Theatre

Dr Jason Wong MBE, BDS, DPDS, FCGDent; Deputy Chief Dental Officer for England; General Dental Practitioner, Grantham

Antimicrobial prescribing in dentistry

Saturday 8 October, 10.45am – 11.45am

Compliance Hub

Dr Wendy Thompson BSc, BDS, Dip. MFGDP(UK), PhD, FCGDent, FHEA, FICD; College of General Dentistry lead on antimicrobial stewardship; Chair of the FDI-World Dental Federation working group on antibiotics

Mental health wellness in dentistry

Saturday 8 October, 12.15pm – 1.00pm

Enhanced CPD Theatre

Prof Tim Newton CPsychol, AFBPS; Professor of Psychology as Applied to Dentistry, King’s College London; Honorary Consultant Health Psychologist, Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

Menopause policy – supporting staff through menopause (co-hosted with the British Association of Dental Nurses)

Saturday 8 October, 2.15pm – 3.00pm

Enhanced CPD Theatre

Jacqui Elsden RDN, MSc, FBADN; President of the British Association of Dental Nurses; former DCP Lead for Dental Nurses, HEE London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex

Mentoring in implant dentistry: good practice guidelines

Saturday 8 October, 2.45pm – 3.30pm

Clinical Excellence Theatre

Dr Pynadath George BDS, MFDS RCPS, MSc Rest. Dent., MSc Imp. Dent.; Co-Editor, Mentoring in Implant Dentistry: Good Practice Guidelines (CGDent); Treasurer of the Association of Dental Implantology

Record-keeping in the real world of general dental practice

Saturday 8 October, 3.15pm – 4.15pm

Compliance Hub

Dr Abhi Pal BDS, MGDSRCS, Dip. FFGDP(UK), FDSRCPS(Glasg.), FCGDent; President of the College of General Dentistry; General Dental Practitioner, Edgbaston; independent dental expert witness

College representatives were also available throughout the conference at Stand F58 to talk to delegates about its vision for the profession, the benefits of membership, and to answer questions.

Conference registration was free, and delegates had access to over 100 seminars in all across 6 lecture theatres, as well as over 180 exhibiting suppliers, and the opportunity to network with thousands of dentists, practice managers, hygienists and therapists, dental nurses, technicians and laboratory owners.

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Professional Framework for general dental professionals to be launched

The College has announced that it will be launching its much-anticipated Professional Framework next month.

Guests celebrating the launch of the College at Barber-Surgeons’ Hall, where the Professional Framework will be launched next month at the Fellows’ Summer Reception

The Professional Framework will describe the knowledge, skills and other attributes that primary care dentists and other dental professionals may aspire to at different stages of their career, and underpins the College’s Career Pathways programme. An initial framework published last year identifies five domains:

  • Clinical and technical: the capability to diagnose, to advise and to treat
  • Professionalism: the conduct and behaviour to engage patient trust and confidence
  • Reflection: awareness of personal impact, abilities and limitations
  • Development: commitment and capability to improve the service to patients
  • Agency: the ability to resolve solutions independently and through others

The creation of career pathways for general dental practice was a key founding purpose of the College, which has been developing sets of progressive steps for each dental team role in order to provide purpose and direction for dental careers, to enhance professional standing, and to help retain and nurture a motivated workforce.

These are being mapped out by four working groups – representing dentists, dental hygienists & therapists, dental nurses & orthodontic therapists, and dental & clinical dental technicians – working together through a programme board chaired by Professor Avijit Banerjee and a reference group chaired by Dr Shamir Mehta.

The Professional Framework will be launched at the inaugural Fellows’ Summer Reception, which takes place on Wednesday 15 June at Barber-Surgeons’ Hall in London. It will be preceded by the conferral of Fellowships, President’s Commendations and the prestigious College Medal, and will take place in front of around a hundred guests.

Fellows and Associate Fellows of the College, as well as FGDP Fellows who were unable to enjoy formal conferral of their fellowship during 2020-21 due to coronavirus restrictions, are eligible to attend. Tickets are £20, to include wine and canapés, and a small number of spaces remain.

The College’s Career Pathways programme is generously supported by Colgate.

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Two dentists, one award and 6,000 subscribers

Award-winning early-career dentist, Pouya Zohrabpour, features in the College’s new film and tells us about the innovative educational work he has been doing to support dental students and young dentists.

I remember the day I was studying with my friends for our final exams of dental school and we received an email saying that all our in-person exams have been cancelled because of the Covid-19 lockdown. This was right at the start of Covid. Being one of the Covid year graduates was a very odd experience and I never thought the start of my career would pan out the way it has. I am now a first-year associate dentist and have been lucky enough to start and work on many additional projects related to my dental work.

With my friend Dr Ali Gowie, I run a dental YouTube channel and Instagram account called Two Dentists. This was something we started during the lockdown as we both got bored of watching long one-hour webinars and wanted to create highly educational videos which were professional, concise and easy to understand. So much of dentistry can be complicated but we felt that if we did enough research, we could script videos and break down difficult concepts into bite-sized videos for young dentists and dental students.

Our first few videos, which have been some of the most popular on our channel, focused on the new patient examination. We have made videos on seeing your first patient as a dental student, best way to take a dental history, dental examination, essential diagnoses, radiology and treatment planning.

We have since expanded and released a variety of other videos such as our series on dental photography and Loupes, which have been very popular. After launching and committing to releasing one video every week, which we maintained for a full year, we have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback received from everyone. My proudest moment of our YouTube journey was when a friend of mine sent a photo of a lecturer at the University of Bristol (where I graduated) showing my radiology video to a group of final year students.

The Youtube channel has allowed us to collaborate with many dentists and be in a continual state of learning. We have been lucky to be able to collaborate with Dr Shivam Divani who is the creator of the My Dental Care App. The app aims to educate the general public on the importance of good oral hygiene and to show you how to protect your teeth and prevent dental issues. With Dr Divani we created a six-part video series which accompanies the text and images in the app. These videos have also been released publicly on our YouTube Channel.

My progress on the YouTube channel was one of the factors that led to me winning the FGDP Foundation Dentist of the Year last year – which I am extremely grateful for. I am now extremely proud to also be an Ambassador for the College and to fulfil my role in spreading awareness of the new Career Pathways to support young dentists like myself.

In my foundation training year, I had to decide if I wanted to do Dental Core Training or not. This decision was based on speaking to my friends and colleagues but I found it difficult to make a decision as everyone had different opinions and I was unsure of the pathway I wanted to go down. I am sure many others have been in this position and this is where I believe the new Careers Pathways programme can come in. As a young dentist, having a career pathway which has been mapped by a professional body and shows clear steps in progression gives me security in knowing that I am on the right path for me to expand my knowledge and become a better dentist. Whilst doing so, it’s great to know that my progression will be recognised by the College and I can work my way up to becoming an ‘accomplished practitioner’. I believe the Career Pathway will be a must-use programme for every young dentist who is currently in general practice looking for a structured pathway for continual professional development, enabling you to move forward and enhance your career with confidence.

We plan to launch the College’s Career Pathways in dentistry, underpinned by the Professional Framework, in June 2022. Look out for details in the June issue of our monthly newsletter – sign up to receive it.

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President discusses dental careers at No.10

On 29 March 2022, College President Dr Abhi Pal visited No.10 Downing Street to attend a roundtable breakfast meeting on access to careers and progression in dentistry hosted by the Prime Minister’s Special Adviser on healthcare policy.

Dr Pal commented:

“It is great to see recognition at the top of government that widening access to dental training, followed by career progression based on merit and not hindered by inequalities, are vital in order to recruit and retain a workforce reflective of the population it serves and able to meet the UK’s oral health needs.

For its part, the College of General Dentistry is committed to breaking down unnecessarily prescriptive and exclusionary professional barriers, and is developing a Professional Framework with accompanying Career Pathways that will offer all general dental professionals staged recognition of their knowledge and skills, and a range of routes to planning a fulfilling career in dentistry.”

The College will shortly be hosting a related live webinar:

Social inequalities when applying to study dentistry
Monday 4 July 2022, 7pm
This will discuss social inequalities and how they may affect students when applying to study dentistry. It will be free to view for all dental professionals on the day, and the recording will be available thereafter to CGDent members. Approx. 1.5 CPD hours. CPD e-certificates are free for CGDent members. REGISTER HERE

Related webinar recordings already available to College members in the CPD library include:

Why colour is the elephant in the room
A first-hand exploration of racial inequality and prejudice, with real life experiences from colleagues working in all areas of dentistry, and highlighting ways in which we can tackle inequalities and systemic racism. “This webinar was so, so important and impactful”
Approx. 2 hours’ CPD.

How to get the best from your career in dentistry
This webinar looks at career and development planning no matter your career stage, and for the whole dental team, exploring next steps and what courses and opportunities are available. It also provides information on CGDent’s development of Career Pathways to give your dental career a boost. 2 hours 15 minutes’ CPD.

Developments in minimum intervention dentistry

In-person expert panel discussion and Q&A, Tuesday 4 October, 6.30pm

King’s College London, New Hunt’s House, Guy’s Hospital Campus, London

Professor Avijit Banerjee and an expert panel of guests, explored the renewed emphasis on Minimum Intervention oral healthcare prevention delivery and the College of General Dentistry’s related career pathways for primary care team members.

Discussion programme

  • Primary care, team-delivered prevention-based MI oral healthcare delivery in the context of impending NHS dental contract reform and post-pandemic primary care service delivery.
  • NHS policy development for prevention-based phased care and its wider implications in society.
  • Structured postgraduate career pathways for all oral healthcare team members, delivered through the College of General Dentistry frameworks, and highlighting the King’s master’s programme in Advanced Minimum Intervention Restorative Dentistry (AMIRD) designed for dentists and dental therapists working in primary care, globally.




  • Dr Abhi Pal, President of the College of General Dentistry
  • Dr Amanda Gallie, past-President of the British Association of Dental Therapists and MSc AMIRD graduate
  • Dr Len D’Cruz, GDP and dento-legal expert, Head of Indemnity at the British Dental Association
  • Dr Sara Hurley, Chief Dental Officer, England

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Practice ownership: an introduction

Recorded webinar. Thursday 20 January 2022, 7pm.

Organised in collaboration with The British Dental Students’ Association (BDSA), this webinar is for any dental professional, including students, who wishes to understand what owning a practice entails, the joys of “being your own boss”, how to prepare for practice ownership, and the pitfalls.

Owning a practice provides huge opportunities for working independently, building up an enterprise, and practising in a way that suits the individual. However it comes with significant responsibilities.

The topics we explore include how practice ownership fits into a GDP career pathway, different models of practice ownership and preparations you can make before embarking on this route.


  • Dr Abhi Pal, President CGDent
  • Susan Nelson, Council member at CGDent
  • Milan Chande, Dentist and National Clinical Manager, A&U Dental
  • Simon Hughes, Managing Director, Medical at Christie & Co
  • Jitesh Jassal, Final year dental student at King’s College London, President of the BDSA 2021-22 and Vice-Chair of the Executive Board of the BDA Student Committee

CGDent members and ProDental subscribers can claim CPD hours for free and have access to the webinar recording.  A £20 fee will apply for non-members/non-subscribers who wish to claim CPD.

This webinar is part of the partnership between the College of General Dentistry (CGDent) and ProDental CPD.

Membership of the College of General Dentistry is open to all registered dental professionals. Membership for dentists is available from £94, and for other registered dental professionals from £33. The full list of CGDent membership rates is at

You may be interested in our recent webinar How to get the best from your career in dentistry, which explores a range of career pathways open to dental professionals and discusses how the College’s Career Pathways can support your career.

Avijit Banerjee and Shamir Mehta to lead CGDent career pathways programme

Professor Avijit Banerjee and Dr Shamir Mehta have been appointed to key positions leading the College of General Dentistry’s career pathways programme.

Professor Avijit Banerjee (l), Chair of the CGDent Career Pathways Programme Board, and Dr Shamir Mehta (r), Chair of the CGDent Career Pathways Reference Group

Professor Banerjee is Professor of Cariology & Operative Dentistry and Clinical Lead in Restorative Dentistry at King’s College London, and has been appointed Chair of the Career Pathways Programme Board, which also includes the College’s Vice President, Roshni Karia, and CEO Simon Thornton-Wood.

Dr Mehta is a partner in two dental practices in Harrow, Senior Clinical Teacher at King’s College London and Senior Clinical Advisor to the General Dental Council, and has been appointed Chair of the Career Pathways Reference Group, which provides advice and guidance and also includes Andrew Dickinson, Sharon Hill, Andrea Johnson, Kirstie Moons, Fiona Sandom and Bill Sharpling.

The career pathways programme, which is supported by Colgate, is building structures to provide purpose and direction for careers across the oral health team, to enhance professional standing, and to help retain and nurture a motivated workforce in dentistry.

Career pathways with clear progressive steps are being mapped for each dental team role, underpinned by a professional framework which describes the breadth of capabilities of practitioners at each stage of their career.

These are being developed, together with the programme board and reference group, by four working groups reflecting the key roles in general dentistry:

Dentist Group

  • Phil Dawson (Chair)
  • Sefa Ahiaku
  • Bilal Arshad
  • Ian Dunn
  • James Hamilton
  • Nyree Whitley

Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy Group

  • Emma Pacey (Chair)
  • Leon Bassi
  • Liam Ferguson
  • Shaun Howe
  • Sarah Murray
  • Kath Reynolds
  • Frances Robinson
  • Miranda Steeples
  • Kirstie Thwaites

Dental Nursing and Orthodontic Therapy Group

  • Debbie Reed (Chair)
  • Ken Binnah
  • Jane Dalgarno
  • Amanda Knight
  • Sharon Morrow
  • Marie Parker
  • Tracey Rodgers
  • Tracey Taylor
  • Tracey Young

Dental Technology and Clinical Dental Technology Group

  • Michael Brindle (Co-Chair)
  • Darren Ware (Co-Chair)
  • Stephan Avetoom
  • Mark Gilbert
  • Mark Maley
  • Steven Martin
  • James Neilson
  • Caroline Persaud
  • Stephen Wears

Further announcements are expected in the first half of 2022, and more information about the programme is available at:

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Experience working in different care settings boosts confidence

Dr Harriet Jones reflects on how a varied early career in secondary and tertiary care settings has given her increased confidence in her work as a primary care dentist.

Having graduated from Newcastle in 2016 I carried out Foundation training in a small mixed private and NHS practice. Following this I worked as a Dental Core Trainee in the speciality of Oral and Maxillofacial surgery. I am now currently working part time as a Community Dental Officer and also in NHS practice.

I think gaining an experience in a wide range of areas of dentistry is essential. Having a dental degree opens up so many avenues and the number of career options available is vast. The start to my career has allowed me to experience dentistry in different settings and see a small section of the scope of dentistry.

Gaining experience working in secondary and tertiary care settings has given me increased confidence working in primary care. Working within practice it is inevitable that referrals will need to be made. Having experience working at the receiving end of referrals has increased my ability to refer appropriately. For example, Oral and Maxillofacial referrals can be sent with different grades of urgency and I feel I have an increased ability to understand the appropriate referral to make when I see a patient in general practice.

Working within different settings has also given me the opportunity to work with a variety of dental colleagues who have different interests and specialities. These links have enabled me to organise teaching events for general dental practitioners to maximise learning opportunities. Interacting with colleagues from a variety of specialities allows you to keep up to date with dental advances which is essential in the dental world. Overall, I think this has had a beneficial effect on my ability to treat patients with varying needs. 

It is important when working in practice not to become isolated. I work in a large mixed NHS and private practice with a close group of dentists in a supportive environment. This allows us to comfortably discuss cases and gain advice where needed. On graduating and completing foundation training I still feel the need to gain a second opinion often and working within a supportive environment allows you to do this. I am the Secretary of our regional FGDP(UK) team which involves organising CPD events for dentists within our area. This allows me to meet local dentists and also with our speakers who work within different specialities. Attending Local Dental Committee meetings is also an excellent way to network with local dentists and have a voice regarding important matters and issues as part of a committee of dentists.

Dentistry is a very exciting career with so many possible avenues to take. I think it is important to embrace new opportunities and interact with dental colleagues in order to improve skills and maximise job satisfaction.

Author bio

I qualified from Newcastle in 2016 and gained my MJDF in 2018. I completed my Foundation training in general practice and then went on to work as a Dental Core Trainee in the speciality of Oral and Maxillofacial surgery. I now work in an NHS practice and am a part time Community Dental Officer

This student advice blog was originally published by FGDP(UK) in March 2019 and has been republished by the College of General Dentistry with the author’s permission.