Dentistry is an increasingly popular career choice and gaining entry onto a degree course is competitive; however, the rewards of a career in dentistry are undoubtedly numerous and therefore the hard work often pays off.

Once you’ve got the grades the course you will follow will certainly be extremely interesting, varied and challenging. This article will provide an outline of dentistry as a career in terms of what is involved in the dentistry degree, considerations for the future with reference to the kind of work available and information which will help to make practical decisions easier.

The vast majority of dental courses offer a great deal of practical experience as well as theoretical, academic learning; usually, this takes the form of a placement which may involve following a particular speciality or genre of dentistry over a period of time.

Choosing a Speciality

The popularity of dentistry as a career choice is perhaps primarily due to the flexibility it offers in terms of specialities.

Commonly, students choose a particular discipline according to their experience during the practical placements undertaken throughout the degree course; some specialities are more competitive than others so it may be useful to focus on a small number of specialities rather than just one.

While many dentists choose to practise general dentistry, many choose to specialise in a particular field; there are several specialist areas.

The most popular and well-known specialities include oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics and dental public health; other disciplines include oral pathology, oral microbiology, paediatric dentistry, restorative dentistry, academic dentistry and special care dentistry.

Maxillo-facial surgery is focused on the diagnosis and treatment of any condition relating to the teeth, jaw, cheeks, throat, mouth or facial area. Often, patients who are referred for maxillofacial surgery will require fairly complex treatments; this speciality is vast and therefore dentists must be highly trained and equipped to deal with the vast array of problems which may be presented.

Orthodontics is primarily based on an individual’s occlusion, or bite. Orthodontic treatment often involves the insertion of braces or retainers in order to improve the positioning and alignment of the teeth and jaws.

Dental public health is an increasingly important part of NHS healthcare and is designed to be a preventive measure to reduce tooth decay and gum disease. Dental public health is a community outreach programme which aims to raise awareness of oral health issues and educate the public in how to maintain a high standard of oral hygiene.

Oral pathology and microbiology are more research-based and tend to focus on diagnosis and effectiveness of treatments.

Restorative dentistry includes the insertion of fillings, bridges, crowns and veneers in order to restore the teeth to their original state.

Paediatric dentistry is concerned with the care of children; this discipline is important as children are often afraid of dental procedures. A great deal of understanding and compassion are usually required to succeed in the arena of paediatric dentistry.

Speciality dentistry requires additional training as well as academic study and practical professional experience. The training involved depends on the particular speciality but this usually involves an intensive period of postgraduate study lasting at least one year.