Top tips for young dentists

Dr Sahar-Tara Aghababaie, part time Dental Associate in North West London, gives you some key pointers as you start your career in dentistry.

Dentistry is continuously evolving, and because of this, we ourselves should be moving along with it and getting the most out of our chosen career. Here are a few tips aimed at young dentists to hopefully help you with the first stages of your career.

  1. Build a portfolio

    Start a clinical portfolio sooner rather than later – this can include anything from the clinical cases you have done, audits, prizes etc. It is good practice to get into the habit of doing this earlier on as more employers are requesting to see portfolios at job interviews to see what you are capable of. So, if you have it – show it off!

  2. Clinical Photography

    A picture is worth a thousand words so they say – so ensure you have your camera at the ready. Invest in a clinical camera and kit and start taking photos of your clinical cases. Not only can these photos go towards your portfolio, but they can also help with treatment planning more complex cases as well as creating before and after pictures for your patients.

  3. Invest in Loupes

    Poor vision and insufficient lighting when performing dental treatment often results in poor posture. The use of loupes has been shown to help maintain a better posture – so invest in your back! Before buying a pair of loupes, ensure you do your research.

    Go in person and try on the different loupes from different companies and see which one feels right for you. Many companies provide personal visits to your place of work to provide demonstrations, or alternatively go to dental conferences so you can try all the different ones in person. Remember as newly qualified dentists most companies
    offer discounts!

  4. Get networking

    As the saying goes “it’s who you know, not what you know” and in dentistry this can often be true. In order to meet future employers you need to put yourself out there.

    This can be at dental conferences, dental talks and meetings at your local dental associations to give you the chance to not only meet your future employers but give you the chance to network with fellow peers and get involved in exciting

  5. Keep on learning

    The 5 years of dental school is only the beginning – get out there and keep on training. This is important to maximise your learning, improve on your skill set and help build your clinical confidence. There are many opportunities out there, such as the MJDF, hands-on clinical day courses, and more long-term post-graduate courses. There are also many free taster courses out there too so you have nothing to lose!

  6. Start a career plan

    Time flies by so quickly, so to help plan your career create a plan for yourself on what you hope to achieve, starting from in 5 years’ time then to 10 years’ time. Then brainstorm how you will get there. This is a great way to manage your future career and acts as a fantastic motivational tool.

  7. Relax – and enjoy the ride

    At times dentistry can be stressful. However, life is not a race but a journey. Do not expect to have reached all your goals by tomorrow, and do not compare yourself to others. Always make time to relax, start new hobbies, go on holiday and recharge your batteries – it will help maintain a good work-life balance!

Author bio

I qualified from King’s College London School of Medicine & Dentistry in 2015, after which I completed my dental foundation training. Following my training, I started to work as a general dental practitioner in a mixed NHS/Private dental practice in North West London which I help to manage.

In 2017, I started my position as a Dental Core Trainee at the Paediatric Department at The Eastman Dental hospital, whilst continuing my commitments in general practice part-time.

I have continued my post-graduate education and gained Membership of the Joint Dental Faculties of the Royal College of Surgeons England and the Faculty of General Dental Practice in 2017. I also have a passion for academic teaching and have recently completed my post-graduate qualification in Dental Education.

This student advice blog was originally published by FGDP(UK) in June 2018 and has been republished by the College of General Dentistry with the author’s permission.

Tackling life in general practice after Foundation Training

Dr Khush Shah, General Dental Practitioner, delivers three pieces of vital advice to help you tackle life in general practice.

I graduated from King’s College London in 2016 and completed my Dental Foundation Training in Birmingham. During Foundation Training, I was in two minds as to whether I wanted to move back into hospital or continue life as an associate dentist. In the end, after speaking with numerous people and seeking advice on the matter, I chose not to apply for DCT and have been working as an associate since. Reflecting upon this decision, I have not regretted it at all. 

The step into General Dental Practice as an Associate can be very daunting to take. Having been sheltered at Dental School and then having the presence of an Educational Supervisor safety net, people can find themselves very isolated when they choose to move into general practice (over the more structured hospital route). Couple that with the added pressure of striving to achieve a UDA target or embarking upon more complex private treatment plans, this will all add up to more stress in one of the most stressful professions in the UK.

I have three key pieces of advice to help you tackle life in practice: 

  1. Set yourself realistic goals: Specify timeframes, self-reflect and adjust your goals accordingly. 
  2. Surround yourself with people who will help you achieve this
  3. Develop and invest in yourself: Don’t think twice about the expense of a good pair of loupes, a DSLR camera or a highly recommended course you’re considering, as you will reap the benefits of these without a doubt.

1. Realistic goals

My biggest piece of advice would be to plan where you would like to see yourself in 5, 10, 15 years and at the end of your career. With goal setting – AIM BIG – but plan your smaller steps to achieve this. Everyone is different, which is why it is so important to take the time to personalise your Personal Development Plan. It is easy to say you want to “produce the best dentistry for your patients” or “run a successful practice”, however these are too generic. Specificity will help you identify weaknesses and develop strategies to improve these, highlight your strengths and allow these to flourish, but most importantly enable you to work towards the final goal you have set yourself. Learning which methods of self-reflection work for you, is a vitally important part of this, as it will give you scope to amend these goals as you progress.

2. Develop a peer support network

It is important to surround yourselves with like-minded individuals. This will form the basis of your peer support network. This can be through horizontal integration, with colleagues of similar experience, or vertical integration by finding a mentor to support and advise you. Not only does this allow you to discuss how to handle different situations, it provides you with a channel of communication to share any problems or anxieties that you may have. However, it is also crucially important that you are not comparing or competing with your peers. This can have a hugely negative impact on one’s self-confidence as it is much easier to compare your weakest traits (e.g. molar endodontics) and forget about your strengths (e.g. your attention for detail when producing secondary anatomy on a composite restoration). 

3. Develop and invest in yourself

There is an increasing array of postgraduate courses available and this can make it difficult to narrow down which would be most suitable for you. They have been set up to target a demand from young dentists where there are gaps in the undergraduate teaching curriculum. There are many deciding factors to look at: level of hands-on experience, post-nominal accreditation, number of contact days, individuals teaching the course. These elements will be valued differently by all; however, it is important that the right course is chosen for YOU. 

People will advise you to do as many courses as you can early on, or in contrast not to dive into a postgraduate course too soon in order to build up clinical experience that will be directly relatable to the course that you plan to undertake. In hindsight, there is no right or wrong answer to either of these and it depends on how best you learn (i.e. theoretically or practically). What is very clear to me, however, is that if you pick the right course, you will be investing in yourself in a way where the rewards will speak for themselves. Do your research, ask other people about courses they have been on and decide which will best suit you.

Author bio

I qualified from King’s College London in 2016. I completed my Dental Foundation Training Scheme in Birmingham. Since then I have been working full-time as a dental associate in a mixed practice. 

I completed my MJDF qualification in 2017 and have continued my postgraduate training by currently undergoing both a restorative and an implant course.

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