Around 80% of Dentistry graduates go into general dental practice within the NHS or in private practice; although that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other career options out there.
During the course of your degree you’ll learn a number of highly transferrable skills that will equip you for whichever career path you choose to take. By the end of your degree you’ll:
In order to practice as a dentist you’ll need to do a further year of vocational study after completing your undergraduate degree, during which time you’ll be known as a Vocational Dental Practitioner (VDP), and then be registered with the General Dental Council.
After that, the (dental) world is your oyster!
So, what are the career opportunities with a Dentistry degree?
Common career options for Dentistry graduates
General Dental Practitioner
As we said above, the majority of Dentistry graduates go on to become self-employed general dentist practitioners (GDPs) either within the NHS or in private practice.
From there they may go on to become associates and later partners of the dental practice they work for. Eventually they may own and run their own dental practice, sometimes in partnership with other dentists.
However, there is no defined career path and as you’ll be self-employed you wont usually be entitled to benefits such as sick or holiday pay. That said, if you’d like the freedom to choose your own hours, develop your professional areas of special interest, and manage your own patients then this could be the right career path.
This is the second most popular career option and is a good choice if you’d like to have a defined career structure and training pathway, along with the benefits of being employed.
As a hospital doctor you’ll be supported to gain postgraduate qualifications if you want to progress on to more senior roles. You’ll also have the opportunity to specialise in one of the four main specialisms within hospital dentistry:
As part of the role you may be required to work less flexible hours that an GDP and be “on call”. The work is generally more specialised than work as a General Dental Practitioner as patients may be referred to you.
Community Clinical Dental Officer
The Community Dental Service helps to provide dental care for patients who are vulnerable or have additional needs. For example, you may work with elderly or housebound patients, patients with physical disabilities or mental illness, or children who need extra help.
As well as working from a practice the role may also involve working with patients in their own homes, nursing homes, mobile clinics, and community clinics to ensure good oral health within the community. You could work in schools as part of screening programmes and the role can involve a lot of research into oral health and dental issues.
You’ll be working as part of a wider clinical team and positions are salaried with a defined training pathway and opportunities for career development.
The Armed Forces
All of the Armed Forces offer dental cadetships and will fund your training during the later stages of your degree if you’ve decided you want to work for them after graduation.
Your work could be both in the UK and abroad providing comprehensive dental care for service men and women. As a dentist in the Forces you’ll hold a commissioned rank and your career path is very structured.
Less common career options for Dentistry graduates
The less common career options for Dentistry graduates include industrial or corporate dentistry.
Industrial dentistry involves working for a large company that offers dental care as a benefit to its employees. These are salaried roles but similar to working as a General Dental Practitioner in terms of hours and duties.
As a Corporate dentist you’ll be employed by a corporate body and corporate dentistry is taking over an increasingly larger part of the dentistry market.
Here’s more about working for a dental corporate and the things you need to take into consideration before accepting a role.