CGDent-GC Award 2023/24 winners

The College of General Dentistry, GC and The Tom Bereznicki Charitable Educational Foundation would like to congratulate the winners of the inaugural CGDent and GC Award for Foundation Dentists:

Masuma Chowdhury Tendai ManangaziraJuan Salmerón Ramírez
Nathaniel-Edouard DavidsonAsad MasoodGolasa Sheikh Akbari
Milton JustinsuthakaranCónal McKeeSonia Sin
Nafeesa KhanJoseph MulhallArav Soin
Chloe LeungJay PatelJarmima Uddin

The 15 winners were selected from entries submitted by Foundation Dentists / Vocational Trainees from across the UK, each of whom submitted an aesthetic case which they treated during their Foundation/Vocational training year which included at least one anterior tooth and composite restoration. Cases included the use of composite to treat midline diastema, the aesthetic and functional treatment of tooth wear, restoration following dental trauma and aesthetic build-up of peg shaped laterals, as well as more simple multiple composite restorations. View the winning cases here.

The panel of judges, which comprised Trustees of The Tom Bereznicki Charitable Educational Foundation, marked each case based on a set of assessment criteria which focused on overall improvement in the patient’s oral health (including periodontal health), the standard of aesthetic dentistry carried out and the quality of the entrant’s reflection on the case.

The prize for the winners is a fully funded place on a composite layering course which is taking place on 11-12 July at GC’s European Education Campus in Leuven, Belgium.

Dr Tom Bereznicki FCGDent, Founder of The Tom Bereznicki Charitable Educational Foundation, commented:

We were delighted with the number of entries, which all demonstrated a high level of dentistry skills and patient care. I would like to thank all entrants for submitting their work, and offer my congratulations to the winners.”

A selection of the winning cases which illustrate a range of different types of cases entered in the competition. Cases submitted by (L-R) Nathaniel-Edouard Davidson, Golasa Sheikh Akbari, and Milton Justinsuthakaran.

Remarking on the winning entries, Professor Sir Nairn Wilson CBE FCGDent, President Emeritus of the College, said:

Congratulations to all the winners; a great, richly-deserved experience awaits them in Leuven, accounts of which will hopefully encourage even more entrants in future years. Congratulations also to the Tom Bereznicki Charitable Educational Foundation for its ongoing work with the College and GC to promote the personal development of clinical skills among recently qualified colleagues. All entrants to the competition have learnt valuable lessons about the art and science of aesthetic dentistry.”

John Maloney, GC’s Director and Country Manager for the UK, Ireland and South Africa, said:

“It has been truly rewarding to see the admirable level of aesthetic dentistry skills demonstrated by newly qualified dentists. We look forward to continuing our work with the College and The Tom Bereznicki Charitable Educational Foundation to provide high quality, clinical training for early career professionals. Congratulations to all the winners, we can’t wait to see them at our Education Campus in Belgium.”

To register your interest in the 2024/25 award and receive notifications as soon as the competition opens in September, visit our award page.  

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How to get the most out of your Foundation Training

Foundation Dentist and CGDent NextGen Ambassador, Dr Choudhury Rahman, describes his experience transitioning from undergraduate studies to Foundation Dental Training, along with tips on how to make this change smoother and get the most out of the year!

As I sat down waiting for my first patient as a qualified dentist, I debated how to introduce myself. Dr Rahman, or just Choudhury? I felt the same nerves I did when I saw my first patient as an undergrad, a sense of imposter syndrome. Am I really a dentist now?

When I think back to this time last year, running up to finals, wishing it would be over with, I never thought I would have learnt as much as I have now, in just a few months of FD training. Nothing quite prepares you for general practice.

The pace at which you learn and develop is unbelievable. From seeing three patients a day in the undergrad clinic to 20-30 in general practices, along with vast quantities of treatment. When people tell you that you’ll do more treatment in a month of FD vs the whole of undergrad, they aren’t joking.

Of course, the experience you get will depend on where you work. If you’re fortunate enough to work in an area of high needs like mine in Rochdale, you will get bags of treatment – lots of caries, restorations, extractions, and root canals. However, you may also work in an area where you can do more aesthetic work, or somewhere with great oral surgery experience.

Here are my tips on how to make the transition smoother and get the most out of your FD year:

  1. Spend time making good treatment plans

    Sit down with your Educational Supervisor (ES), discuss cases with them, and get help with deciding what treatment to do. This will be your biggest learning curve, deciding independently what treatment to do and when. The more experience you get doing this, the better you will be at planning by yourself over time. Remember, you don’t have to make it at your initial appointment, you can always bring the patient back for this.
  1. Don’t worry about how long you need for treatments

    Want to spend three hours doing a molar endo? Or two hours on some posterior composites? Do it. FD year is when you get the chance to spend as long as you want on the treatments you want to do. You aren’t paid by Units of Dental Activity (UDAs), you’re paid a fixed salary. Use the time you have to provide good, high-quality treatment, and then you can focus on building speed towards the later stages.
  1. Push yourself with complex treatments

    You will have the support of an Educational Supervisor by your side throughout the year. They are there to help you and guide you. Take on that difficult molar endo, and plan for that surgical extraction. It’s your one year where you have help at every step of the way if you need it.
  1. Build a good relationship with everyone at your practice

    From the receptionist, the practice principal, and of course, your nurses. If you build a good bond with your team, and look after them, they will look after you!

Overall it’s been a tremendous experience. I have been very fortunate to have an amazing practice and a supportive ES. FD training is a unique and enjoyable experience. You can practice all the things in dentistry you love, not worry about UDA targets or lab bills, and push yourself with challenging cases knowing someone has your back. But one thing is for sure, you will get out what you put into this year. If you put in 100%, you will get so much out of your FD year.

One last thing I recommend is to become a member of the College of General Dentistry. I’ve been told by many colleagues, at this stage of your career, the world is your oyster. It can be difficult to navigate and work out exactly what you want to do. Should I do Dental Core Training (DCT)? Is MFDS really worth it? What postgrad training course should I enrol for? These are all questions a mentor will help you answer when you enrol on their Certified Membership Scheme, which is crucial at this stage of your career.

Author bio

“I Graduated from University of Manchester in 2023 and am currently doing my FD Training in the Greater Manchester North Scheme. I’m also a NextGen Ambassador for the College of General Dentistry. My clinical interests include Oral Surgery and Prosthodontics. I aspire to become a well rounded GDP, able to provide full mouth rehabilitation including placement and restoration of implants. Outside of work, I enjoy running and 5-a-side football.”

Dr Choudhury Rahman

A dental therapist’s unexpected journey

Dental therapist and business operations manager, Poppy Dunton, reflects on her career in dentistry and how her mantra that “every day is a school day” has supported her development.

Never would I have expected to have the career that I did out of dentistry. I was a disgruntled 15-year-old being told my graphic design two-week work placement had pulled out. With everyone else having picked their placements, I was left with the unexpected choice of a dental practice. “A dental practice! You’ve got to be joking?” I initially thought. Yet, as I made cups of tea and filed blue forms, the hustle and bustle of the place felt surprisingly comfortable. To say I enjoyed it was an understatement.

As the two-week period ended, the principal dentist offered me a part-time after-school job – making tea and cleaning the old impression trays (pre-single use era), and earning £3.15 per hour. I jumped at the chance, feeling like I was made of money. Every day after school, I would walk and do my 4 pm – 6:30 pm shift. When a trial day at Northampton College for photography didn’t sit right with me, I informed the principal dentist that evening. My father was called in for a meeting, and that’s when the principal dentist said, “I’ll only give her a job here, Graham if she makes something of her life.” That evening became the catalyst for my passion in dentistry.

The evolution of my career is intricately tied to a commitment to education. I embarked on an evening college course, alongside my apprenticeship, to train to become a dental nurse. Tuesday evenings in Milton Keynes led to passing the NEBDN Certificate in Dental Nursing. Once I had this, I spent the following months learning as much as possible – four-handed dentistry, impression taking, and implant nursing. The practice grew, and another was bought over the road, giving me the chance to set up an oral hygiene program.

Following my return from Cardiff University, where I completed a diploma in Dental Hygiene and Therapy, I was privileged enough to be offered my job back in the practice where I started. The first week was a week to remember; I ran an hour late, fell down the stairs, and stuck two teeth together. I had the most patient mentors, and working in an NHS practice was fantastic, allowing me to complete my full scope of practice, including paediatrics. Was it hard? Yes. Did it teach me speed and resilience? Absolutely.

After graduating in 2012, there were limited postgraduate options. Notable pursuits included constantly up-skilling and working in a team supportive of therapists. Composite courses with GC in Belgium, Level 7 in Employment Law, and being promoted to operations manager of two NHS practices – eventually managing a team of 64 staff – led to me being offered a practice manager position four years into my career. This opened learning about people psychology, leadership, and planning team meetings alongside my clinical career.

I was privileged enough to then open a squat practice alongside my principal, with a business plan for two surgeries over two years which resulted in 10 surgeries being opened over five years, including a vaccination clinic.  Three CQC inspections later, and the role of CQC manager was also added to my repertoire. The most rewarding part of project managing the development of this new practice was recruiting a group of individual dental professionals and watching them grow into a wonderful team.

Upon completing a PGDip in Perio and PGDip in Aesthetic and Restorative Dentistry, I was introduced to the College of General Dentistry and was eager to explore the recognition I could gain as a dental therapist. Unfortunately, the course credits were not enough per course to contribute towards Fellowship. Thus, I joined the College’s Certified Membership Scheme (CMS) to gain guidance on how to continue advancing my career and choose the best postgraduate training to reflect my aspirations. As part of the Scheme, I have regular contact with a Facilitator who consistently ensures that my investment in courses leads me in the correct direction. Ongoing self-reflection allows me to constantly critique myself, and the leadership module fits well with my management of staff, completing practice meetings, and public speaking. Being part of the CMS has supported me to complete a Level 5 ILM in Leadership and Management, by enabling me to choose an appropriate course and help develop leadership qualities.

The College’s Professional Framework, which underpins the Certified Membership Scheme, maps 22 key capabilities, many of which have played a crucial role in my journey. Emphasising the value of postgraduate education, I would encourage new graduates to embrace opportunities for further learning and to constantly be self-critical of their work. Recording self-reflection, taking photographs, and analysing what went well in each case, shadowing peers, or approaching colleagues for their opinions are essential. Don’t fear failure; it’s what makes you better.

In my experience, this profession can be challenging and, at times, isolating. There are days when running late, neglecting notes, skipping meals, and even necessities like restroom breaks become the norm. The toll on one’s body—back pain, eye strain, and hand fatigue—can be significant. Looking after your long-term career is vital. Record-keeping has been one of the largest changes I’ve seen, starting in my early career with very short notes. Now, ensuring my conversations with patients are highlights in notes, and my nurses help and scribe during appointments. This has proved invaluable when a complaint arises. Protecting yourself is vital.

The most unexpected rewards in my dental therapy role often come during these challenging moments. Patient gratitude and the joy of assisting anxious individuals through treatment illuminate the darker days.

This career has allowed me ongoing dedication to continuous learning, reflecting on my mentor’s ethos of “everyday is a school day”. My commitment to education and mentorship is rooted in a desire to guide new professionals in navigating complexities while maintaining their well-being. In 2023, I was privileged to join the Board of the Faculty of Dental Hygiene & Dental Therapy for the College and long to continue my career in teaching.

Recently I have relocated due to family illness, and this marks the end of a significant chapter in my career, prompting reflection on the unconventional path that led me to the field of dentistry, the intricacies of managing a bustling practice, combined with the personal growth and educational pursuits that defined my journey. In conclusion alongside all new graduates, I continue to embrace new challenges and aspirations, remaining steadfast in my commitment to contributing positively to the ever-evolving world of dental therapy.

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Making the move into private practice

Dr Pouya Zohrabpour, GDP and co-creator of the Two Dentists YouTube Channel, describes his journey towards becoming a fully private associate dentist, and the support he has received from the College’s Certified Membership Scheme.

Many young dentists struggle with imposter syndrome, often hesitant to engage in private dental practice or transition to a fully private setting. I graduated in 2020 and have recently embarked on the journey to become a fully private associate dentist. The experiences I’ve gathered over the past few years have been instrumental in easing this transition, helping me overcome imposter syndrome, and instilling confidence in the quality of dental care I provide.

Shortly after graduating, my colleague and friend, Dr. Ali Gowie, and I made the decision to launch a YouTube channel named “Two Dentists.” This initiative was born out of our shared frustration during the lockdown, as we grew tired of lengthy hour-long webinars. Our mission was simple: to create informative, polished, and easily digestible educational videos within the field of dentistry. We aimed to make these videos accessible to both dental newcomers and students.

Initially, our content focused on the intricacies of the new patient examination process, quickly gaining popularity on our channel. We covered a range of topics, from guiding dental students through their first patient interactions to providing insights on dental history collection, conducting comprehensive dental examinations, mastering all the essential diagnoses, utilizing radiology effectively, and excelling in treatment planning.

As time progressed, our content portfolio expanded to include diverse video series, such as our comprehensive exploration of dental photography and Loupes, which resonated strongly with our audience. Running our YouTube channel has opened doors for valuable collaborations with fellow dental professionals, nurturing our ongoing journey of learning and personal development. The channel has provided me with constant motivation to seek further knowledge, which I can then share through our videos.

During my foundation training year, I faced a pivotal decision regarding whether to pursue Dental Core Training (DCT). This choice weighed heavily on my mind as I sought advice from friends and colleagues. However, the diversity of opinions and my own uncertainty about the ideal career path left me in a state of indecision. Ultimately, I chose the associate route to focus on improving my general dentistry skills.

I’m certain that many others have found themselves in a similar situation, which is precisely where the new CGDent Certified Membership Scheme and Career Pathways can make a significant difference. As a young dentist, having a clearly defined career pathway, carefully mapped out by a professional body, offers me a sense of assurance that I’m on the right trajectory to expand my knowledge and evolve into a more proficient practitioner. Knowing that my progress will be acknowledged by the College and that I can work my way towards becoming an accomplished practitioner is incredibly motivating.

The Career Pathway provides a structured ladder to guide one’s professional growth, with clear steps leading to the achievement of the “accomplished practitioner” status. Currently classified as a “capable practitioner” “within the program, I am actively working towards the next milestone of becoming an “experienced practitioner”. One of the requirements for this advancement is completing a postgraduate diploma. To meet this requirement, I have enrolled in a PGDip program in Aesthetic & Restorative Dentistry offered by the Advanced Centre of Excellence (ACE). This further education has significantly boosted my confidence in treating a diverse range of patients, particularly in the private dental sector.

The Career Pathway is underpinned by the College’s Professional Framework, which delineates five domains encompassing 22 capabilities expected of dental professionals. My discussions with my assigned Facilitator while navigating these domains have been enlightening. They have encouraged me to pursue self-development not only in technical skills but also in the soft skills integral to dentistry. For instance, I’ve focused on honing my technical knowledge through courses in my PGDip program and ensuring I apply this knowledge in practice. Emphasizing the reflective domain, especially behaviours and well-being capabilities, has motivated me to foster a friendly, supportive, and collaborative environment among my colleagues at the dental practice. I firmly believe that without the framework and pathway in place, many of these actions may not have occurred or could have been delayed. The YouTube channel, Career Pathway, and Professional Framework have all played pivotal roles in shaping my career, enabling me to evolve and find fulfilment in dentistry.

As I near completion of my PGDip, I’m keen to identify the dental procedures that resonate with me most and potentially niche down in those treatments. To me, a successful dental career entails working in a capacity that allows you to practice the dentistry you enjoy, on a schedule that suits your preferences. This journey is neither swift nor easy; it demands patience and thoughtful planning. However, with the right guidance and strategy in place, it can become a more seamless and rewarding experience.

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Dentistry work experience webinar

Webinar with Future Frontline, Tuesday 5 December 2023, 6pm

This webinar with Future Frontline, aimed to raise awareness of different careers within general dentistry and to educate future dental professionals about working in the dental profession. Members from across the dental team gave an insight into a typical day in the life of a dental professional, explained what they love about working in dentistry and the career pathways that are open to dental professionals. They also gave information about the College of General Dentistry and how we support careers in dentistry.


  • Michelle Brand, Dental Nurse, Associate Member of the College
  • Dr Roshni Karia MCGDent, General Dental Practitioner, Council member of the College of General Dentistry
  • Frances Robinson AssocFCGDent, Dental Hygienist, Chair of the College’s Faculty of Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy
  • Carmel Vickers-Wall, Clinical Dental Technician, member of the College’s Faculty of Clinical Dental Technology & Dental Technology
  • Dr Pouya Zohrabpour, General Dental Practitioner, Ambassador for the College of General Dentistry, Associate Member of the College

Membership of the College of General Dentistry is open to all registered dental professionals and dental students and trainees. Find out about our membership types and fees here.  

Follow us on Instagram @CGDentYoungDental

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Transforming oral health: A fellow’s journey

Dental Hygienist, Frances Robinson AssocFCGDent, has recently completed the Clinical Oral Health Transformation Fellowship with HEE. As the first ever dental care professional in any clinical fellowship role, Frances explains what was involved.  

A fellowship is a position, often combined with clinical work, that focuses on the learning and development of the individual taking part. Fellowship roles in the healthcare profession aim to expand opportunities for aspiring leaders; helping them gain the necessary experience and skills for future system leadership roles. As such, there are a range of opportunities to be involved with projects and programmes and to work in settings outside a clinician’s normal exposure. There can be specific goals of writing, submitting, and publishing papers, attending meetings and conferences, and working on particular projects, as well as networking. The balance of these is dependent on the host organisation.

I have just completed a one-year position with Health Education England (HEE) as their Clinical Oral Health Transformation Fellow. HEE’s purpose is to support the delivery of excellent healthcare to patients, by ensuring that the workforce has the right numbers, skills, values and behaviours. Thus, the areas I worked on related to the development of the oral health work force.

I was the first dental care professional (DCP) to be awarded the clinical fellowship, these roles are typically fulfilled by a dentist. I am extremely grateful for this innovative appointment both for my personal development and the development of my career, but also for other DCP colleagues, for now it has opened up new realms of opportunities for us to progress in system roles.

I applied for the role because of the potential to gain experience working in the public health sector, whilst allowing me to work clinically at the same time. Having completed a Masters in Dental Public Health in 2017 – spurred on by my interests in health inequalities research – I felt this position would be an excellent opportunity for me to develop my career.

At the CDO stand with Sara Hurley and other fellows at the BDIA showcase

During a fellowship there is flexibility to align the projects undertaken to individual interests, whilst working for the greater aims of an organisation. This means there is a real opportunity to tailor a role to where there is the most personal or organisational benefit. My aims for the year working with HEE were to work on projects that I’m interested in, for example oral health inequalities, oral health empowerment and promotion, increase my skill mix and exposure to multidisciplinary team working in primary care, as well and develop opportunities for leadership and management for all members of the dental team.

I am currently writing up multiple papers to be published; one evaluates the success of a pilot that aimed to reduce the number of paediatric patients sent to secondary care for dental extractions under general anaesthetic. A subsequent paper will evaluate the success of the “return to work” therapy scheme, a programme aimed at supporting Dental Therapists who have not been using their full scope of practice, back into therapy work by providing them with training opportunities, supervisor support and a practice placement. I will also be helping to write a concept paper for a Dental Hygiene postgraduate training programme.

During my time with HEE, I have had the chance to sit on various working groups like a “Managed Clinical Network” and interact with external organisations such as Public Health England, academic institutions, professional societies and local councils.

A clinical fellow may also have the opportunity to attend courses and gain qualifications that are not linked to their clinical work; I was selected to complete an Institute of Leadership and Management, level 7 qualification through HEE. I received three days of training with UMD Professional and then completed a research element which involved interviewing my colleagues at the HEE dental office.

Furthermore, I am currently completing a “Becoming an Expert Educator in the Healthcare Professions” course with the University of Nottingham. These additional skills and qualifications are important for demonstrating tangible outcomes from the year.

It has sometimes been a trying year due to the pandemic – working from home during a fellowship has meant less interaction with colleagues and difficulty integrating into an office very different from a clinical setting. Natural communication with colleagues is often stilted when working virtually. I subsequently created ice breakers for meetings with my peers to stimulate organic conversation!  

There are other fellows across the country with HEE and in other organisations for example with the Chief Dental Officer, General Dental Council, Care Quality Commission and NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I). We have a clinical fellow networking group where collaborations across work streams can be facilitated and a journal club takes place. This has given me the chance to network with new professionals across medicine and dentistry which has been really enjoyable! The fellows try to see each other in person despite being spread out across the country– the most recent of which was at the BDIA Dental Showcase at ExCel London.

As I was the first fellow at Health Education England to be a DCP I was – and still am – in a unique position to be an advocate for DCPs, working hard to make our voices heard across a variety of settings. I was asked to do a presentation at the BDIA conference on workforce and skill mix. I focused on the skill mix in our systems, policy, planning, commissioning, leadership and management. I am passionate about DCP representation in all of these areas as I truly believe that if we are represented throughout the system we will have a more empowered workforce. If you’re interested in taking up a Fellowship position, keep an eye on NHS jobs, HEE jobs, FMLM for dentists and your professional society pages.

Presenting at the BDIA showcase

The College of General Dentistry has a unique structure with exciting opportunities to create connections between different dental professionals against an academic backdrop. There are no other organisations in the industry now that represents all dental registrants in this way. The careers pathway programme will be able to support individuals navigating their fields; there will be guidance, support networks and mentors available to enhance learning and progression. I personally am very excited to have a structure in which to work, with industry recognition of the level attained. I know that many DCPs have much to offer the wider industry with postgraduate qualifications and extensive experience in many areas, as well as evidence of enhanced learning. The College will enable these efforts to be verified through a framework where all dental professional are assessed equally. This certainly is an exciting time for us all.

Frances Robinson chairs the Dental Hygiene & Dental Therapy Group on the College’s Career Pathways programme.

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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.