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By Dr Diana Omar

Choosing the right dental practice for you

3 min
Dr Diana Omar

Completing your university studies and transitioning into the workplace can be daunting. There are lots of things to consider as you start to make decisions about your future. One of the biggest decisions you’ll make is settling on the type of practice you want to spend your working days in.

We all recognise that a huge part of being happy at work is the environment you’re working in. So, it makes sense to choose a dental practice that is aligned to your values, allows you to realise your ambitions and gives you the type of lifestyle you’re looking for.

So, what are the main factors you should be considering?

In this article, Dr Diana Omar, who is currently working as a dental associate and locum, shares the factors she thought about when deciding where to work – and the questions you should be asking prospective employers to help you make your decision.

Factors to consider when making your decision

Choosing a practice to work in was difficult. I spoke to several dentists and asked them for their recommendations and what I should be looking for.

The good news is that dentists are currently in high demand, so you’ll have a lot of choice. With choice comes decision-making, so here are the key areas I think you should be thinking about when choosing your place of work.

What are the operating hours of the practice, and what will you be expected to work?

Some practices are open outside of the standard 9am - 5pm. So, you can sometimes work longer hours but in fewer days and receive the same income.

What is the UDA rate?

I believe you can negotiate this with employers, so be prepared to haggle.

How many UDAs will they expect you to complete?

A practice once expected me to complete 8000 UDAs in five days as a new associate. I had to turn down the job because it seemed unrealistic to me.

Is there any support available?

As you are newly qualified, it’s beneficial to have a dentist who is willing to give advice and a helping hand if necessary. Some practices have ‘lunch and learn’ sessions or training programmes you can take advantage of.

How many surgeries are there in the practice?

Working in a small practice (one with two surgeries, for example) may mean you won’t get as much support as you would in a larger practice with more staff. It can also mean the opposite, which is something to think about.

What is the private income split?

Most practices offer a 50% split on all private work. For example, if you make £120 from a composite filling, you will earn £60. The other £60 will go to the practice.

What is the split for lab bills?

Again, this is often 50%.

Does the practice expect you to complete treatments within a certain time frame?

Some practices want you to work quickly, so you’re able to complete more UDAs. Some practices may expect you to complete exams within 15 minutes. It was important to me to have full control and flexibility over my books within the practice, so this was something I made sure I had.

Is the practice located in a high needs area?

Whether a patient requires ten fillings or three, you will still get a band two treatment which equates to three UDAs. Therefore, if it’s a high needs area (i.e., patients have poor oral health and require more treatment), it can take longer to complete UDAs in comparison to a low needs area.

Sometimes it can be more financially beneficial to accept a slightly lower UDA rate and work in an area that is not very high needs.

What equipment will be available to you?

Does the practice have a rotary system? If so, what is it? I have used Protaper, Wave 1 and Kava Kerr. My favourite is Wave 1 by far, and this was a consideration for me when choosing a practice.

Do you have to pay for any equipment?

Some practices expect you to pay for rotary files (£10 per file).

Is there any clawback?

Clawback occurs when you don’t reach your UDA target for the year. The practice charges a percentage penalty for any that haven’t been completed. Not all practices have this policy, so it’s important to ask. This doesn’t usually apply to locums.

Will you be paired with a qualified nurse, or will you be working with a trainee?

Also, will you be working with the same nurse every day? This makes a big difference and can slow you down or speed you up a lot. I find it best to work with the same nurse, so we get to know how each other works.

Does the practice have a therapist or hygienist available to refer patients to?

This can also make a big difference.

What is the notice period for holidays?

One practice I worked in asked for 12 weeks’ notice for any days off, which wasn’t practical for me. Four to six weeks is usually the standard, although some practices are more flexible.

What is the notice period when leaving the practice?

One practice I applied to asked for a nine month notice period. For me personally, this was too long. If I didn’t like the job, I would be stuck there for nine whole months. I would say one to three months is fair.

You’ll probably work in a few practices before you realise what is important for you, but hopefully this list sets out some of the key things to consider. It’s important you feel happy and comfortable in your workplace as you will be spending a considerable amount of time there.

And finally, good luck in finding your new job!

As Diana said, we hope you’ve found this article useful. If you have any questions, she’s happy for you to contact her through Instagram @DianaDoesDentistry.

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