When I was preparing for my own dental school interviews I wanted to be as prepared as I possibly could be. I went to my local stationery shop and bought an A5 notepad that I would use to create my own little booklet with all the bits of information I thought it would be useful to know about for my interviews.

Feel free to do the same as I did, or simply read this in full 🙂

There’s that old saying: “If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail”

Getting into dental school is obviously something super important – we all want to be successful and it is very competitive with so many great applicants competing for every space, so being well prepared is the best way to increase your chances of getting the offer(s) you want! You can impress the assessors by answering interview questions correctly, and make it obvious to them that you have done some research to know about the dental profession.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I think it will be a really helpful resource for anyone applying to dental school. Furthermore, the descriptions of each listed term are not super detailed – it simply offers you a taste that will be all you need as an applicant. You will learn all about what is described in this post in loads of detail when you are a dental student, soon – hopefully.

I do not mean to insult your intelligence at all – so please do not read this like that. I’m just trying to remember the things I did when preparing and want to share the wisdom with you too.

It is important for me to remind you that you do not need to be over prepared. No one is expecting you to know everything – far from it! Don’t stress about learning lots of detail and trying to remember lots of different bits of information. As an applicant, all you need to do is to demonstrate that you genuinely know what dentistry is like and be able to convince the assessors at each dental school that you really do want to pursue dentistry!

You HAVE TO read my main article about dental school interviews if you haven’t already. If you want to read it now, just click here.

I am pretty sure that most dental school applicants will not have much knowledge about many aspects of dentistry, but I would like to think that a significant number of applicants do have a basic understanding of some different dental terms. You are not exactly going to be examined on how well you have researched dentistry in the interview, but who knows…

I often get messages from prospective applicants where people ask me what books or resources that I would recommend they read in order to be successful in their applications. The answer I always give is a reminder to not over-prepare – you are not expected to! All of the knowledge you will need to know to be a dentist will be taught to you whilst you’re enrolled in dental school for five years.

Also, the straight up truth is that the likelihood is you won’t even need to utilise any of this information in your interview, but it definitely doesn’t affect you if you spend some time getting to grips with the “basics”. You’re probably now thinking to yourself: “So if that’s true, then why should I even bother reading this???” – good point, but it could help, so it’s worth the little time it will take you to read this short post…

When I was making notes in my notepad, I simply used online resources through Google and it gave me the perfect level of detail. The idea behind this blog post is that I have done the hard work for you, so you can simply read this post and learn all the basic information you might find it useful to know about.

From personal experience, even though I spent time (and money) making notes on the “basics” of dentistry when preparing for my interviews, I hardly needed to use any of it during my interviews – but it is nice to have a headstart when you start the course and have a decent level of starting knowledge.

I hope much of the below is not totally unfamiliar to you. If you’ve reached the interview stage, it is very likely that you’ve all done some work experience and could have got first-hand experience with a lot of these terms.


 

SPECIALIST DENTISTRY

Dentistry is a medical speciality. As dentists, we are experts in the head and neck region, especially what is inside the mouth. All dentists who are qualified will have a very broad skill set and the ability to carry out a variety of different dental procedures, however, many dentists choose to focus their career on a specific area within dentistry. If a dentist chooses to focus their career, they may decide to carry out further training (i.e. returning to a dental school for three or four years of extra training) to complete a masters degree and then takes a set of exams to become an official specialist.

The rules here in the UK mean that no dentist can describe themselves as a specialist in an area of dentistry unless they have done the additional post-graduate training and passed all the exams to join the specialist register. On the GDC website, you can search for all UK-based specialists in the different areas (e.g. prosthodontics, periodontics etc).

SPECIAL INTEREST DENTISTRY

If dentists do not complete the additional training to become a specialist, but they choose to focus their area on a particular area of dentistry, and maybe also take additional short dental courses in this speciality area to get more knowledgeable and skilful then they can describe themselves as having a special interest.

For example, if a dentist really likes doing root canal treatments and wants to do more of them, and feel more confident in treating more complete root canal cases, they may decide to pay to go on courses in endodontics. After completing post-graduate endo courses and building up experience with root canal therapies, they may develop a reputation as a very good endodontic treatment provider and describe themselves as a ‘general dentist with a special interest in endodontics’.

SPECIAL CARE DENTISTRY

Special Care Dentistry (SpCD) is concerned with providing and enabling the delivery of oral care for people with significant impairment or disability. This may be physical, sensory, medical, emotional or social.

These special care patients need the appropriate care to ensure they are well looked after – it is not always possible to safely treat patients with disabilities in general practice so that’s why they can be referred to be seen in a specific Special Care Dentistry clinic by specialists in this area of dentistry.

Dentists can do further training post-qualification to focus their practice on the treatment of special care patients. SpCD is a recognised speciality by the GDC.

ENDODONTICS

Commonly referred to by those in the dental profession simply as ‘endo’. As the name suggests, this speciality area of dentistry focuses on the inside of teeth, i.e. the root canal(s). All teeth are alive because they have a nerve supply and blood supply which is found inside the root canal and pulp chamber. Endodontics involves looking after the health of teeth and treating any diseases that affect the root canal system. The most common treatment that is carried out by an endodontist is called an RCT (root canal treatment).

All dentists are able to carry out root canal treatments and other minor endodontic procedures but there are also specialists in endodontics who are experts in the field, having spent additional years of training post-qualification – specialists can carry out more complex endo cases.

PERIODONTICS

Periodontics is a dental speciality area that focuses on the structures that surround and support the teeth. The periodontal tissues include what are commonly known as the gums (i.e. the gingivae) but also include the jaw bone (i.e. alveolar bone) which the teeth are embedded into and other supporting structures. Some people jokingly describe periodontists as the people who specialise in the “pink stuff” or everything that isn’t the teeth. There is often a lot of bloody treatments carried out in this speciality.

Periodontists can do many different treatments ranging from the complex surgical procedures where the gums are cut open and they treat the underlying bone, placing dental implants to treating oral inflammation (periodontitis).

All dentists are able to carry out routine perio cases and other some minor periodontal procedures but there are also specialists in periodontics who are experts in the field, having spent additional years of training post-qualification – specialists can carry out more complex periodontal surgery cases.

PROSTHODONTICS

This is a branch of dentistry that focuses on making artificial replacements for teeth and other parts of the mouth. It can also be described as prosthetic dentistry.

The common prosthodontic fittings that can be made for patients include crowns, bridges, dentures and this also includes dental implants.

In prosthodontics, there are so many different dental materials that are used for various stages of the design, manufacture and fitting of prosthetic dental fittings, including metals (gold, cobalt chrome, titanium, copper etc), plastics (resin, acrylics), dental waxes etc. Therefore, prosthodontics involves lots of lab work relying heavily on close collaboration with dental technicians.

All dentists will be able to treat patients requiring prosthetic dental treatments but there are also specialists in prosthodontics who are experts in the field. Specialist prosthodontists will have completed a number of years of additional training post-qualification.

ORAL SURGERY

In simple terms, this is all about tooth extractions. Oral surgery primarily involves surgical extraction of teeth that need to be removed from a patient’s mouth after becoming so heavily decayed or diseased that they cannot be treated and saved.

Oral surgery involves various different instruments to carefully extract teeth, sometimes meaning the gums have to be cut open so that buried teeth can be drilled out of the jaw bone. Another common treatment that oral surgeons do is to surgically remove cysts and other small tumours/infected tissues in the oral cavity.

Dentists have varying degrees of skill with oral surgery, but all dentists have been trained to carry out tooth extractions. It is possible for dentists to become specialists in oral surgery after completing additional years of further training post-qualification.

RESTORATIVE DENTISTRY

As the name suggests, this kind of dentistry involves RESTORING health, function (and aesthetics) of teeth and the oral cavity in general. Restorative dentistry is an umbrella term that consists of the three mono-specialities, which are: endodontics, periodontics and prosthodontics.

You could argue that all dentists are restorative dentists since this is the main aim of what we do when treating patients. For example, if a patient comes into the clinic with missing teeth, we try to replace them (with implants, dentures, bridges etc) to RESTORE their function. If a patient comes into the clinic with lots of decayed teeth causing them pain those cavities need to be filled and this will RESTORE their health.

In a hospital’s restorative dentistry department you will find dentists carrying out all sorts of different restorative procedures on patients that may include combinations of periodontics, prosthodontics and endodontics.

It is possible for a dentist to become a specialist in restorative dentistry by following the hospital training pathway – i.e. they will eventually become an NHS consultant in restorative dentistry – this basically means they are expert dentists who know lots about all sorts of different dental procedures and can treat many different patients.

ORAL AND MAXILLOFACIAL SURGERY (OMFS)

OMFS is a very unique speciality that requires individuals to be fully trained in both medicine and dentistry. It is a surgical speciality that allows clinicians to treat many very complex cases.

It is possible to become specialised in OMFS through either route, i.e. by taking dentistry first then medicine or medicine first and then dentistry. They treat many types of cases, including traumas, cancers and developmental abnormalities (e.g. cleft palate and lip patients) etc.

OMFS is a hospital-based profession and since it is so complex, it is not something that is taught in any great detail at undergraduate dental school.

Interestingly, dentists can work in OMFS hospital departments as SHO Dentists – assisting with the delivery of treatment to patients requiring OMFS care.

ORAL AND MAXILLOFACIAL RADIOLOGY

Simply put, radiology is all about taking clinical images to use for diagnostic and treatment planning needs. The most common dental radiology is dental x-rays, including bitewing, periapical and panoramic radiographs. Dentists take thousands of x-rays during their practising careers, so it is something we learn a lot about at dental school and have a lot of experience with.

It is incredibly important that we are skilled with radiology and understand the science behind it because radiology involves us exposing our patients to small but significant doses of radiation – it is crucial for us to be as safe as we possibly can be for the sake of our patients.

CT scans are also common in dentistry – especially with oral surgery and implant dentistry since CT scans give a 3D image that allows the dentist to see the 3D anatomy before proceeding with any treatment.

Point of clarification:

A radiograph is the proper description of an x-ray.

Whilst, radiology is the science of using medical images (i.e. radiographs) to diagnose diseases.

So, therefore, in dentistry (and medicine), there is a distinct difference between a radiographer (someone trained to take x-rays) and a radiologist (someone who is medically-/dentally- qualified to take AND use x-rays, or other medical images to make diagnoses for patients).

ORAL MEDICINE

This speciality is all about oral health care for patients who have chronic, recurrent and medically-related disorders of the oral and maxillofacial region. Oral medicine is a combination of dentistry and medicine, and although many oral medicine specialists have dual-qualification in both courses (dentistry and medicine), it is a dental speciality and you don’t need to be medically qualified.

Treatments in oral medicine usually are non-surgical, this is the key difference between this speciality and OMFS.

The mouth is a portal to the whole body. There are many systemic diseases/conditions that manifest in the mouth so it is important for oral medicine specialists to know about the whole body. For example Crohn’s Disease, which is an inflammatory condition that affects the digestive tract – including the mouth.

If a general dentist sees a patient who has suspicious-looking lumps/bumps/patches/ulcers in their mouth or maxillofacial region, they will often refer the patient to an oral medicine department for further investigation – which may include taking swabs, biopsies and blood tests to make a diagnosis.

ORTHODONTICS

This area of dentistry focuses on the treatment of poorly positioned, crooked teeth and abnormalities in dental development. The most common treatment that orthodontists provide is what we all know as braces.

In recent years, with more focus being put on minimally invasive dentistry, more and more dentists are now becoming trained in carrying out short-term orthodontics (STO) to treat adult patients in their clinics who want to straighten their teeth. The very well known treatment systems for STO include Invisalign, Inman. Aligner and Six Month Smiles.

The gold standard for orthodontics will always be the traditional brackets and wire treatment. So many applicants to dental school will have had braces when they were younger, myself included – so many applicants will already have a good idea of what orthodontics is all about.

It is possible for a dentist to become any general dentist to carry out minor orthodontics if they have done courses to train themselves appropriately, but there are also specialists in orthodontics who are experts in the field – dentists typically will refer their patients to go and see an orthodontist for treatment. Specialist prosthodontists will have completed a number of years of additional training post-qualification.

NHS DENTISTRY

On the NHS, patients can receive dental treatment with fixed charges that are imposed by the government. All NHS treatments need to be functional, i.e. improve the patient’s function and remove any disease or pain.

Since it is a public health care system, it can only survive and function by being cost-effective, therefore, the fixed NHS budgets for each NHS dental clinic mean that cost-effective materials and dental laboratories are used.

There are government guidelines in place that dictate the frequency of check-ups and hygiene appointments. Also, the government imposes limits on the amount of NHS dental treatment that any practice can provide, this is in the form of the NHS dental contracts which usually limit working hours to between Monday-Friday 9am-5pm. Once an NHS dental clinic reaches its limit of work it cannot offer anymore NHS treatment until the following financial year.

NHS BANDS

Dental treatment on the NHS has a tiered system with fixed rates. There are three bands (1,2,3). Since the NHS banding was introduced many years ago, the rates for each of the bandings has been gradually increasing. The current rates are shown below:

  • Band 1: £21.60. Covers an examination, diagnosis and advice.
  • Band 2: £59.10. Covers all treatment included in Band 1, plus additional treatment, such as fillings, root canal treatment and removing teeth (extractions).
  • Band 3: £256.50. Covers all treatment included in Bands 1 and 2, plus more complex procedures, such as crowns, dentures and bridges.

If a patient has multiple treatment needs, i.e. a combination of treatments from different bands then they are only charged once for the highest banding. For example, if a patient needs a full mouth scale to treat gum disease, if they also need three fillings, and one root canal treatment as well as a bridge – they will be charged £256.50 only.

If a patient receives and pays for NHS dental treatment, then within two calendar months of completing a course of treatment they need more treatment from the same or lower charge band – such as another filling – they don’t have to pay anything extra. If the additional treatment needed is in a higher band, they will have to pay for the new NHS course of treatment. This NHS dental contract, which was first rolled out in 2006 was aimed at ensuring that dentists are paid, and patients are charged for a COURSE OF TREATMENT (CoT) as opposed to how it used to be before 2006, with each individual aspect of the treatment plan having its own charge. However, once two months have passed after completing a course of treatment, They will have to pay the NHS charge band (listed above) for any NHS dental treatment received. Certain treatments (including lost items) are guaranteed for 12 months from the date they were completed. These are:

  • fillings
  • root fillings
  • inlays
  • porcelain veneers
  • crowns

Treatments provided under this guarantee must be similar or related to the original treatment, but they don’t have to be like for like.

 

If a patient requires urgent care to address a dental emergency, they will pay a Band 1 charge of £21.60. Most urgent treatments can be done in one appointment. Once the urgent course of treatment is complete, the patient may be advised to make another appointment for a separate course of non-urgent treatment. In this case, the relevant NHS banding charge will apply. 
There are no dental charges for the following:

  • for denture repairs
  • to have stitches removed
  • if your dentist has to stop blood loss
  • if your dentist only has to write out a prescription – however, if you pay for prescriptions, you’ll have to pay the usual prescription charge of £8.80 when you collect your medicine(s)

NHS CONTRACT AND REFORMS

The current contracts for NHS dentistry, which were introduced back in 2006 are currently being revised. It is a long and complicated process. Basically, the contracts need to be changed to become more focused on promoting, encouraging and reimbursing dentists to deliver preventative dentistry.

The Steele Report (June 2009) affirmed that the profession’s goal was to improve oral health and emphasised the need for better health outcomes through prevention.

At present, the way dentists are paid is through what is called the UDA System.

UDA = Units of Dental Activity

Different treatments are worth different amounts of UDAS, and each UDA has a financial value. The Primary Care Trust (in England) or Local Health Board (Wales) set targets of UDAs that need to be achieved by NHS dental clinics. If these annual targets are missed the contract holder and the practice may be financially penalised. Dental care professionals (DCPs) contribute towards achieving these targets.

UDAs range from 1 for a single appointment treatment (i.e. a dental examination) to 12 UDAs for a course of treatment that involves lab work.

  • Band 1 – clinical examination, radiographs, scaling and polishing, preventive dental work, such as oral health advice – 1 UDA
  • Band 1 (urgent) – treatment including examination, radiographs, dressings, recementing crowns, up to two extractions, one filling – 1.2 UDAs
  • Band 2 – simple treatment, for example, fillings, including root canal therapy, extractions, surgical procedures and denture additions – 3 UDAs
  • Band 3 – complex treatment, which includes a laboratory element, such as bridgework, crowns, and dentures – 12 UDAs.

UDAs can also be claimed for treatments that do not have a patient’s charge, such as the issue of prescription (0.75 UDAs), denture repair (1 UDA) and arrest of bleeding (1.2 UDAs).

In an NHS dental practice, all the dental care professionals (including the dentists, hygienists, therapists etc) who are carrying out the treatments will all be working towards the practice’s overall UDA target for the year. The NHS pays the practice and then the health care providers will be paid from this money for the work they have carried out at an agreed rate with the practice.

There are a number of issues with this contract and reimbursement system. It raises ethical dilemmas because dentists are not incentivised to focus on preventative dentistry with their patients (e.g. delivering oral hygiene instructions, carrying our full mouth cleanings, offering diet advice etc) since they are not paid for this. Also, sometimes dentists may encourage patients to choose more complex treatment plans, or encourage them to not choose certain treatment plans since the time invested: money return is not in the dentist’s favour. For example, if a patient has a heavily decayed tooth that needs to be treated – it could be justified to place a large filling (i.e. band 2) but also argued that it is important to place a crown on the tooth to protect it (i.e. band 3) then the dentist may find themselves ‘selling’ the crown treatment plan, which pays them better. Another example is if a dentist does not want to spend the time and effort doing a root canal treatment (RCT)  on a molar that has 4 canals (i.e. a complex RCT) – which is band 2 treatment. Instead of telling the patient to save their tooth with the RCT option, the dentist might tell them the tooth needs to be extracted (which is easier, quicker and better paying than the RCT) and instead ‘sell’ them the option of extracting the tooth then making a bridge to replace it – which is a band 3 treatment.

PRIVATE DENTISTRY

The alternative to dentistry delivered on the NHS dentistry is private dentistry. There are many dentists in the UK who work privately.

With private dentistry, the dentist usually schedules longer appointments with their patients and they use high-quality, expensive materials and gadgets (e.g. digital scanners) to treat their patients, which wouldn’t always be possible in NHS dentistry where charges are lower and time-constraints limit the possibilities.

The NHS does not offer any cosmetic dental treatments, so this is all carried out privately if required. For example, a patient who wants whiter teeth should see a private dentist, or if they want to straighten their lower front teeth – private dentistry.

Implants are often only carried out privately unless there is a particular health condition that means the patient was born with missing teeth etc. So, if a patient loses their teeth due to decay, for example, and needs an implant they will need to see a private implant dentist.

ADVANCES IN DENTAL TECHNOLOGY

There are many advances in dentistry thanks to the introduction of digital dentistry where technology is being used. This is something that might be worth being aware of for interviews to impress if you are asked about any advances in the field of dentistry that you are aware of.

3D printing is now being used in dentistry, which is really exciting and can be super helpful for patient education. We can 3D print models of patients teeth to help explain a procedure to them and to help us as the dentist to plan the treatment.

Digital intra-oral scanning systems are also being used now as an alternative to taking conventional impressions with that gooey impression material you may have had used on you or seen used in work experience. An example is the Trios 3Shape scanner or the iTero scanner.

Image result for itero scannerScreen Shot 2018-09-08 at 21.06.24.png

CAD/CAM is a popular phrase to use with digital dentistry. CAD = Computer-Aided Design, and CAM = Computer-Aided Manufacture. We are now able to use CAD/CAM to design dental prosthetics, such as a new crown on a computer and then manufacture it using a milling machine in the practice to make the crown for the patient straight away. The CEREC system is probably the most popular that is used for CAD/CAM dentistry.

Image result for cerec scanner

ADVANCES IN DENTAL MATERIALS

There are many advances in dental material science that are changing dentistry. Dentistry relies on the materials we can use.

Scientists are constantly working on developing new materials and making improvements to existing materials. There are so many examples of new/improved dental materials – do not worry about knowing these in any detail as an applicant, but be aware that they are happening all the time for our benefit (and our patients’ benefit).

Composite resin, i.e. white filling material is a nice example of a material which is always getting stronger and more aesthetic with new products.

GDC 9 PRINCIPLES

The General Denta Council has outlined the following principles as guidelines for all dental professionals to follow in their whole working careers. It is important for dentists to always maintain these standards. This extends outside the working environment since we must be professional at all times – even in your personal lives (e.g. what we do away from the clinic and post on social media etc).

  1. Put Patients’ Interests First
  2. Communicate Effectively with Patients
  3. Obtain Valid Consent
  4. Maintain and Protect Patients’ Information
  5. Have a Clear and Effective Complaints Procedure
  6. Work with Colleagues in a way that is in Patients’ Best Interests
  7. Maintain, Develop and Work within your Professional Knowledge and Skills
  8. Raise Concerns if Patients are at Risk
  9. Make Sure your Personal Behaviour Maintains Patients’ Confidence in You and the Dental Profession

THE BDA

This is a non-profit organisation that is run by dentists and looks after all dentists in the UK. It stands for the British Dental Association. The BDA is also responsible for putting together one of the leading academic dental publications in the world – the British Dental Journal (BDJ).

Image result for british dental students association

The BDSA

The BDA also looks after us, dental students – they have a subsidiary called the BDSA (British Dental Students’ Association) and every UK dental school will have representatives on the BDSA who organise annual social and academic gatherings for dental students from different schools to come together in a different city each time.

The BDSA gives dental students an opportunity to have their voices heard and helps us lobby with support from the BDA for improvements and policies that are for our benefit. A recent example of the BDSA’s influence is helping maintain the current system for final year dental student assessments (i.e. the process whereby students get examined and ranked for their first training jobs).

THE GDC

The General Dental Council regulates dental professionals in the UK, so they aim to maintain standards in dentistry. Any dentist who is qualified to work in the UK will have their own unique GDC number and you cannot work in this country without one.

To become qualified with the GDC as a dental professional, you have to complete the dental school course and then regularly complete CPD (continued professional development) during your career to keep your knowledge and skills up-to-date, in order to keep your GDC number.

The GDC also looks after other dental professionals, i.e. not only dentists. They regulate hygienists, therapists, orthodontic therapists, nurses etc too.

If a dentist does something wrong and gets in trouble (i.e. has some litigation against them), they may lose their GDC number after a hearing, and therefore no longer be allowed to work in the UK.

Image result for general dental council

 

DENTAL INDEMNITY AND LITIGATION

All dentists need to have legal protection in the form of what is known as indemnity cover. Dentists need to pay an annual registration fee to an indemnity organisation who will protect them if they ever need legal support.

Hopefully, for everyone involved, there is never a need to the dentist to rely on their indemnity organisation to step in and support them on a case, but the dentist can always seek their professional legal advice if needed.

Unfortunately, there is a rising amount of litigation in dentistry. It is very complex, and also not something we as dental students (or applicants) should worry too much about, but it is important to have a real life awareness of this issue which may affect us in our future practising careers.

I’ll give one simple example of a litigation case that could arise. Let’s imagine that a dentist sees a patient who requires a tooth extraction. It is the dentist’s professional duty to explain the procedure fully to the patient at the start and this must include all the benefits of the treatment (extraction) and also all of the potential risks that may arise. If the dentist did not mention any risks and said there is nothing for the patient to worry about then they are very wrong and it can come back to haunt them. By not fully explaining the procedure to the patient, the dentist has failed to obtain informed consent. Then if the tooth extraction goes ahead and it goes badly, i.e. the patient experiences lots of pain, their adjacent teeth are damaged in the process and they get an infection after the extraction – they have a right to make a legal case against their dentist since they didn’t tell them about these potential risks. This is a totally made up example FYI, but if it were real, then this is probably an example of a litigation case that the patient would win.

MIXED PRACTICE

Some dental practices in the UK offer both NHS and private dentistry under one roof. This is described as a mixed practice. The patients can opt to receive either NHS treatment, or pay additional charges to have a ‘private’ standard of treatment instead.

For example, a patient may opt to receive a set of new dentures on the NHS banding (band 3) and therefore pay a fixed rate of £256.50, or, the dentist may suggest the option of getting the dentures done privately at a higher cost, let’s say for example at a cost of £600 and in return for this higher cost the dentures would be done by a different laboratory to be made more naturally appearing with a highly aesthetic finish compared with the NHS dentures that would be made to function and fit comfortably but may not be made with the same level of attention to match the patient’s face perfectly. The dentist is offering both NHS and high-end private treatment and the patients can choose which they prefer, or which they can afford. In the private cases, the dentist usually uses different, more expensive equipment/materials.

ASSOCIATE DENTISTS

At each dental practice, there will be someone who owns and runs the clinic. This person is the practice owner, also known as the practice principal (if they are a dentist). Depending on the size of the clinic, i.e. how many dental treatment rooms there are with a dental chair in them, there will be a number of additional dentists working at the same clinic. The practice principal will employ other dentists to work as associates in the clinic. These associates are employees at the clinic.

Many dentists will happily spend their whole working careers as an associate. An associate can have a very happy work life, with great earnings if they work at a good practice, with a good principal who supports them, with a great team of colleagues (including a great nurse), with a large patient list etc. The advantage of associate dentistry is not having to worry about running a clinic and stressing with all the legalities, all the management and leadership responsibilities and administrative tasks that a principal (and practice manager) need to worry about handling.

How do associate dentists get paid?

Typically, the associates will sign a contract when they start working at a new clinic where they agree to receive ~50-60% of all the money they earn from working at the clinic, and the remaining 40-50% will be for the practice principal. The principal uses the money from each associate to buy all the dental materials and equipment for the clinic, as well as using this money to pay salaries to the rest of the team (i.e. the receptionist, nurses and practice manager).

There are different ways that an associate may agree to share their earnings with their principal. Either by agreeing to split their earnings proportionately (i.e. the associate earns 55% and the principal gets 45%) or they agree that the associate gives the practice a fixed amount annually (i.e. every year the associate will give the principal £45,000 of their earnings and everything earned on top of that £45k is their earnings. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages.

OTHER MEMBERS OF THE DENTAL TEAM

Every dental clinic will have a different team made up of different members. The common team members in a practice will include:

  • Practice Owner (Principal Dentist)
  • Practice Manager
  • Associate Dentist(s)
  • Dental Nurses
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Receptionist

Additional team members may include

  • Dental Therapist
  • Treatment Co-Ordinator
  • Visiting Orthodontist (an orthodontic who works at the practice occasionally, e.g. twice a month)
  • Implantologist (a dentist who focuses on placing dental implants)
  • Orthodontic Therapist

CORPORATE DENTISTRY

This basically describes the ownership of multiple dental clinics by a single organisation. For example, just like how there are loads of Specsavers branches of the high street opticians company, which are all independent branches of the same company, doing the same thing.

In dentistry, a few common examples of corporate dentistry organisations in the UK include Bupa, Rodericks Dental, Oasis and My{Dentist}.

From a business perspective, a corporate dental company has buying power and usually have financial strength. This benefits them since they can buy out many independently owned dental practices – swallowing them up and they also save money by purchasing dental materials, equipment and stock in bulk – compared to single dental practices that pay higher fees for lesser quantities.

Corporate bodies within dentistry are a relatively new phenomenon; it is only 10 years since the GDC removed restrictions on the number of ‘Bodies Corporate’ who could operate. There are a lot of dentists in the UK who are not too happy about how these corporates are changing the dental ecosystem.

Next time you come across a dentist, ask them what they think about corporate dentistry.  There are mixed opinions amongst the profession.

AESTHETIC DENTISTRY

This is also described as cosmetic dentistry. It is technically not a speciality, but there are many dentists who focus their careers almost exclusively on cosmetic dental treatments. Because of the visual appeal and artistic nature of this type of dentistry, it is becoming very popular – especially here in the UK.

As dentists, we should always prioritise the function and biology of our treatments, but it is definitely also important for us to make efforts to ensure the dentistry we deliver is aesthetic.

Cosmetic dental treatment can cost hundreds of pounds. Common treatment plans for cosmetic dentistry involves alignment of teeth, whitening of teeth using bleach, and using composite resin material to improve the shape and appearance of the teeth in a patient’s smile.

DENTURE

A denture is a prosthetic dental option for replacing lost teeth. Dentures typically replace multiple teeth, but can also be made to replace just one or two teeth.

They can be made either completely in plastic (acrylic) or with metal too (cobalt chrome). Partial dentures replace some missing teeth in the arch, whereas complete dentures replace all the missing teeth in an arch.

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ROOT CANAL TREATMENT

An RCT is done on a tooth when the tooth has become infected by bacteria or has died as a result of the decay. When a tooth begins to decay, the cavity may extend into the inside of the tooth, i.e. into the pulp chamber and down the root canals. When this happens, there are bacteria inside the tooth and it will eventually die and the infection can cause extreme pain to the patient – so a root canal treatment is needed.

A root canal treatment involves the dentist cleaning the inside of the tooth, i.e. removing all the bacteria and contents of the pulp chamber and root canals then cleaning it out to kill any bacteria and then filling the canals to make sure no more bacteria can enter them. When the root canal(s) are all filled up, the RCT is completed and usually, the dentist will put a filling on top of the root canal filling or will make a crown to put on top of the tooth to protect it.

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DENTAL IMPLANTS

These are an option for replacing missing teeth. An implant made from titanium can be surgically inserted into the jaw bone and an artificial tooth can be screwed onto the implant.

It is also possible to insert multiple implants into a jaw bone where all the teeth in the arch are missing, and a complete denture can be screwed in to replace all the missing teeth. This is called an implant-retained denture.

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CROWNS AND BRIDGES

These are two different fixed prosthodontic treatment fittings that dentists can use.

Crowns are artificial caps that can be placed on top of teeth to protect them, add strength, make the tooth look nicer (shape and colour) as well as extending the life of teeth that have died. Crowns can either be made from metal, porcelain or a combination of the two. The different materials that crowns can be made from have different costs and properties (i.e. strength and aesthetics).

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Bridges are used to replace one or more missing tooth by joining an artificial tooth definitively to adjacent teeth or dental implants. A bridge will span the area where teeth are missing. They are attached to the natural teeth (or implants) that surround the space. The natural teeth (or implants) which support the bridge are called abutments. Depending on the type of bridge, natural abutment teeth may be reduced in size (i.e. shaved down with a dental drill) to accommodate the bridge to fit over them.

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GINGIVA(E)

Gums are known as gingivae. Inflammation of the gums (i.e. gum disease) is therefore described as gingivitis.

Side note: as a general rule the ending -itis usually means inflammation!

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GINGIVITIS AND PERIODONTITIS

When the gingivae become inflamed, usually because the patient is not cleaning their teeth well enough then this is diagnosed as gingivitis. In gingivitis the gums are red and inflamed, they can bleed readily. Gingivitis is a reversible disease – it can be reversed by proper oral hygiene and dental hygiene visits to remove any plaque or calculus. If the gum disease progresses and is not treated then it can get worse – over time the gum disease can start to affect the underlying bone and this becomes the irreversible gum disease that is called periodontitis.

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SALIVARY GLANDS

Saliva in the mouth is produced and secreted by the salivary glands. There are different kinds of salivary glands and the composition of the saliva produced by them all is slightly different.

There are three main pairs of glands:

  • Parotid salivary glands
  • Submandibular salivary glands
  • Sublingual salivary glands

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There are some other mini-glands in the lips and oral soft tissues, but don’t worry about knowing these.

MANDIBLE AND MAXILLA

The lower jaw, which is one bone is called the mandible.

There is a very important joint we need to know a lot about in dentistry, which is the joint for the mandible and the maxilla coming together on both sides – this is the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ).

The upper jaw, which is made up of two halves us the maxilla (there are also other bones that make up the upper jaw).

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COMPOSITE

Composite Resin is a dental material used in restorative dentistry. It is regularly referred to as either simply “composite” or “resin”. When dentists describe composite resin to patients, they usually describe it as a white filling material.

Composite is a very good and strong material that is tooth coloured – it can come in various different colours, shades, hues so a different type of composite can be used for different patients to make sure the colour of the composite matches the colour of the patient’s own teeth – making the filling seem invisible.

AMALGAM

Dental Amalgam is a metal alloy dental material. It is also used commonly in restorative dentistry as an alternative to composite in many instances. Dental Amalgam is an alloy, which means it is made us of a mixture of different metals such as gold, copper and it also contains mercury. Mercury is toxic and can have very harmful effects on the human body – therefore we need to be very careful when using amalgam in a patient’s mouth.

Amalgam is a very good, long-lasting and strong dental material that has been used for many decades. In recent times, and in the past year or two especially – amalgam has slowly been banned in many countries and for younger patients due to its potentially harmful effects. There is something called the Minamata Convention, which is an agreement made by a number of countries to begin reducing the amount of amalgam used in dentistry.

The likelihood is that in the future, we will no longer be using any amalgam in dentistry.

When dentists describe amalgam to patients, they describe it as a “silver” or “metal” filling. Because amalgam is not the same colour as natural teeth, it is very obvious and therefore considered much less aesthetic than composite.

LIFE AFTER DENTAL SCHOOL

The beauty of dentistry is that there are so many different options within this wonderful field for you to choose between! I am sure so many people, including myself, would be a little surprised to learn how many varied subspecialties and areas of dentistry there are.

This is good news for us is that there are so many different paths we can take for our careers. Another thing non-dental people always seem to be curious about is why we need to spend 5 years in dental school to complete a dental degree, considering medical students also need 5 years to become doctors. They argue there is so much more to learn in medicine than there is just for dentistry – which I would agree with. But junior doctors learn about all body systems in good detail then leave to work as foundation doctors as part of a large hospital team but dental students essentially leave dental school as individual practitioners who do all the treatment themselves as part of a two-person team (dentist and nurse).

After dental school, trainee dentists all have the opportunity to complete Dental Foundation Year (DFY), which is a 12-month training position. After completing this, there are many different routes.

Dentists can go on to work as associates in general dental practice (either for the NHS or private, or mixed), they can go into further training posts called DCT (dental core training) in hospitals within various different departments (oral surgery, restorative dentistry, OMFS, paediatric dentistry). After a few years of work, dentists can also consider going back to full-time postgraduate training posts to become specialists in one of the thirteen recognised dental specialities. Dentists can buy a dental clinic and become a practice principal. Dentists can do short courses in different areas of dentistry to expand their knowledge and skillset. Dentists can learn how to do facial aesthetics and offer these treatments too (e.g. botox or dermal fillers).

I will probably make a full post in the near future about all the options available to pursue in dentistry, this is just a brief overview of some of the options!

DENTAL FOUNDATION YEAR

This used to be known as VT1 – which means it is the first year of vocational training. It is now known as DFY (dental foundation year) training. It is the first year of work as a dentist after completing dental school. All dental school graduates have the opportunity to work as a DFY dentist in a specific dental clinic under the close supervision of their VT dentist (vocational training dentist).

In the DFT year, trainee dentists usually work four days a week in practice (Monday-Thursday) and have Fridays allocated as their ‘study days’. The study days are usually reserved for additional seminars, teaching and further clinical skills training alongside the other DFY dentists in the same region of the country.

During DFY, trainee dentists are all given a fixed salary by the NHS, which is around £31/32k. Because there is a fixed salary, trainees are not under pressure to take on more work or stress themselves out doing lots of dentistry in order to earn more, the whole point of DFY is to slowly ease trainees into working life.

DFY is a big step up from dental school training. At dental school, student dentists usually see a maximum of four patients in any one day, but can see an average of 15-20 patients a day in DFY, if not more!

When dental students are in the final year of dental school, they will all take national exams and interviews to apply for DFY places. All final year dental students will be ranked and the better you perform in the DFY application process, the better your chances of getting a place to train in your first choice practice.

In order for all dentists to obtain a GDC working number and join the register of dentists who are legally allowed to work for the NHS, dentists must complete DFY successfully.

 


 

I hope this post was helpful. Again, I would like to stress that this is not a super detailed list of terms in dentistry, nor are my descriptions incredibly detailed. I have tried to write a very simple, relatively short summary of each aspect mentioned to give you a flavour of some terms in dentistry.

Reading this may or may not help you perform well in the interview, but it will help you get a good feel for dentistry.

If you are confused by any terms described here, or simply want to know more detail about them then I would encourage you to do a cheeky Google search to find out more – having said that though, don’t stress too much about any of this!

You HAVE TO read my main article about dental school interviews if you haven’t already. If you want to read it now, just click here.

Wishing you all the best with your dental school application!

Don’t forget to smile, be kind and be grateful.

 

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