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The Early Years (Of dentistry)

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The Early Years (Of dentistry)

James Chesterman graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2011 and is currently working part time at the Leeds Dental Institute as a specialty dentist in the restorative department and an associate at Ivory Dental Practice in Leeds.

James was inspired to write this article due to the challenges surrounding choices young dentists face with early career decisions. James shares his experiences of a variety of primary and secondary care roles after graduation and advice on choosing positions and the experiences that may be achieved.

The Early Years

From the golden gates of dental school to becoming an independent clinician can be a daunting transition for many young dentists.  As a recent graduate I know it can be difficult to match the expectations of undergraduate training and what in reality it means to become a dentist.  Foundation training is positioned to provide enough support within a community of other young dentists, a personal trainer and extended deanery support.

My path after dental school began as a foundation dentist (FD) at a corporate dental practice within the Nottingham area.  With the support of two very experienced trainers I was able to develop the knowledge and practical skills learnt from undergraduate training.  To my surprise this was without any significant influence from the corporate business, allowing me to have sufficient appointment times and equipment, which is how all FD roles should be.  As a group of 12 foundation dentists we would meet up around once a week for a deanery led study day.  Whilst this provided further educational support, more importantly, it provided a chance to interact with other trainees with a wide array of experiences from their practices.

Maxillo Facial

Following on from foundation training I undertook an oral and maxillofacial surgery SHO post at the Leeds General Infirmary.  This was mainly driven from my lack of confidence and experience with surgical dentistry.  Most young dentists find a maxillo facial’s role a challenging, but rewarding change from dentistry.  The maxillo facial’s functions vary hugely from fairly quiet district general hospitals to busy city centre teaching hospitals.  The latter may provide a wider range of experiences including sub-specialist areas such as cleft lip/palate, complex trauma, orthagnathic, oncology and paediatric maxillo facial.  On the other hand, these positions may not provide a great deal of exposure to hands on dento-alveolar surgery.  If you consider a maxillo facial year, my advice would be to choose hospitals carefully, whilst considering what you want to achieve during the year.

What next?

I continued to stay within Leeds for another year as a restorative SHO at the Leeds Dental Institute.  This provided me with experience within more complex restorative treatments, IV sedation and treatment planning on consultation clinics.  In addition, further experience came from teaching undergraduates and providing emergency care on the acute dental care department.  The skills learnt from a hospital dental post are invaluable whatever career path you choose.  Colleagues that completed this year went onto general dental practice roles, community dentistry or to pursue orthodontic, restorative and paediatric specialist training.

For me, the completion of the variety of tasks from undergraduate training continued to develop my enthusiasm for dentistry.  It provided me with the confidence in a greater skill set such as providing independent conscious sedation.  When looking for positions a variety of hospital and community posts catches the attention of prospective employees from primary and secondary care.  It has given me the opportunity to progress onto two part time roles: One within the same restorative department as a specialty dentist and another as an associate general dental practioner.

Whilst salaried training duties are a great source of experience, I encourage young dentists to take GDP roles before committing to secondary care.  There are important lessons to learn, including having realistic approaches to treatment.  For example, a common question may be “Am I confident to charge ‘x’ amount for that treatment in my hands?”  You can learn a lot, very quickly about your strengths and weaknesses that may not have been apparent in previous roles.  I hope this article will encourage recent graduates to consider gaining a wide range of experiences early on in their careers to develop both as an individual and as a competent clinician.

James Chesterman


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