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Laying the foundations of a great career

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  Posted by: The Probe      12th March 2020

For new dentists, leaving dental school and embarking on a clinical career can be thrilling, overwhelming, frustrating… or a combination of all of these things and more. Many will have worked out their career pathway; certainly, there are benefits in knowing where you want to be in five years’ time, while appreciating that the route will likely be full of surprises.

We hear a lot about the challenges facing the profession – stress, increased regulation, the threat of litigation – but this is still an exciting place to be. You can go online and find negativity about anything and everything, the state of UK dentistry included, but there is optimism too. Dentists can do more and, thanks to new technology, techniques and materials, have the potential to help more patients than ever before. For newly- qualified dentists, having a clear career path will also be hugely advantageous if we see more skill mix in practices, as many in the industry think we will. If, in the future, dental hygienists and dental therapists are delivering preventive-maintenance treatments, this will open up more opportunities for dentists to specialise in the latest endodontic or restorative therapies, for example.

The patient problem

 A focus will mean you will have to get as much out of those early years as possible, to advance quickly towards your goal. Having confidence in your clinical skills when you leave dental school is one thing, applying everything you’ve learned to real patients is another! Being comfortable with patients takes time and experience. Some people are natural communicators, but being a fantastic clinician and communicator doesn’t always go hand in hand.

What you can learn from your early days is that a dentist who inspires trust and loyalty will be relatable, using language that a patient can understand. If you plan to specialise sooner rather than later, these communication skills will be invaluable when you have the training to deliver complicated procedures, like advanced root canal therapy. As a dentist, you may see a straight path from diagnosis to treatment, but a patient could have concerns, like cost and time. They may not have the high aesthetic demands as you do either, as long as they get a ‘satisfactory’ result. A new dentist should accept that patient communication takes time to master and will improve with confidence. No patient wants to feel overwhelmed with jargon, or coerced. There will be many times when will you feel that things could have gone better, but this is part of the learning curve.

The safety net(work)

According to one source, young dentists have a “fear of litigation and the GDC”.[i] Worries about being sued is hardly restricted to new dentists and how to stop anxiety about complaints inhibiting your practice is a hot topic. Experience is essential, which includes learning when to refer, how to make comprehensive notes and making sure you get as much peer support as you can.

Your professional network is priceless when starting out and will be a source of support throughout your career. Your dentist colleagues will be invaluable, but you will learn something every day from everyone in the practice, from the front-desk staff to the dental nurse.

Seek out mentors, in your workplace and online. Online networks will enable you to connect with clinicians you admire, as well as other new dentists. They provide a platform to share ideas, seek peer review, stay informed about courses, tools, materials and research. Frustrated that you’re not doing the kind of dentistry you want to do? Struggling with time-management? This is when your support network becomes invaluable, while you are building skills and confidence.

When you are plugged in to the industry and keeping informed, you will learn what the best dentists are using in terms of tools and materials. Make a commitment, early in your career, to only use the finest tools and materials. Look for high-quality products that offer flexibility and efficiency and that will easily allow you to upgrade your dentistry as your experience grows. When you are ready to start specialising, find tools and materials that are simple to use whether it’s your first specialist case or your 100th. COLTENE offers solutions for general dentistry, plus specialist ranges, including for endodontic therapy. The COLTENE HyFlex™ EDM file system offers files for various indications, including curved canals in complex cases. The file system will complement your skill level and allow you to deliver stable results every time.

One focus

Where to work, where to live, how to manage time and money… the life of a new dentist is full of mountains to climb. Make certain resolutions early on and they will keep you focused while your skills and confidence are growing. Learn how to communicate effectively, build a network and pledge to use only the best – these are the foundations of a long, fulfilling career.


To find out more visit, email or call 01444 235486


[i] Too scared to do your job? The challenges facing younger dentists today. BDA, 24 July 2019. Link: (accessed August 2019).

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