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Life as a young dentist

3 min
Female student in dental lab with patient in chair and teacher

Wondering what life is like when you start your first ‘real’ job as a dentist? In this blog, James Foster, who graduated from Birmingham Dental School in 2021, shares his experience of life as a young dental professional.

I currently work at a dental practice in Shrewsbury. I’m employed by the same person who owned the practice I worked in as part of my foundation year, which is a mix of NHS and private.

The practice owner received good feedback about me from the staff I was working with, so he offered me a part-time job at the practice in Shrewsbury. Initially I worked there for three days and found a job at an NHS practice in Stafford for the other two days.

The practice in Shrewsbury is mainly private (with some NHS provision for children and exempt patients), versus the practice in Stafford which was predominantly NHS.

I worked at both practices for around six months, but found that I wasn’t enjoying life in the Stafford practice as much as I was in the Shrewsbury one. One of the other dentists in the Shrewsbury practice left and I was lucky enough to be offered a full-time role there.

A positive work environment

The atmosphere at the practice I work in is very relaxed and friendly. All of the nurses are great too. Even though I don’t work with the same nurse every single day, they always have my day list, surgery equipment and lab work organised and ready.

This means I can walk into surgery 10 minutes before the patients do, quickly scan my list and make sure there’s enough time to read up on the history of new patients or those who need special attention. I can also check for medical conditions that might affect treatment or anything else I should be aware of.

Having a great team

The fact that the nurses have everything set up for me means I have a calm start to the day, rather than running around looking for lab work and so on.

I can flag things with my practice manager if necessary or ask my nurse to call the lab. I then concentrate on seeing my morning patients before we have lunch together as a team. We sit down and chat about the day, or about interesting patients that we’ve seen. After lunch, it’s time for my afternoon patients.

I feel lucky to be working in this practice as the team is so supportive. The reception team are absolutely great too. They’re good at handling all of the administrative tasks and letting us get on with doing our jobs.

If they need to try and slot someone in, they will come and ask us first, rather than putting in a surprise appointment. If I need to ask them to call the lab or chase a referral, there’s never a problem. They’re very helpful, which makes life so much easier for me.

Growing in confidence

A few months down the line, I felt a lot more confident than I did when I started my foundation year. I think most people would agree it’s nerve-wracking at first. It’s the first time in your educational career that you aren’t supervised, which is daunting.

Up until this point, you will have taken the patient’s information, presented it to the clinician and waited for them to tell you what you needed to do. You would do what was instructed and have it checked four or five times before finishing.

In practice, unless you ask for help, no one comes in to see any of your patients and that’s the way it should be. You’re building the confidence to do it yourself, but the first few times you do it, it’s terrifying.

Plans for the future

I’m doing a lot of general dentistry at the moment, but I like cosmetic dentistry too. I’ve worked on a few composite veneers and composite replacements for amalgams and really enjoyed it.

My practice does a lot of Invisalign work too which is great, as orthodontics is an area that has interested me since dental school. So, that’s the kind of direction I’m moving in for the moment.

About the author
James Foster profile
James Foster

Associate Dentist

James graduated from Birmingham Dental School in 2021 and comes from a long line of dentists. He works as an associate in a predominantly private practice in the West Midlands. His dental interests lie in oral surgery and restorative dentistry.

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