So what happens after DFT...?

After 5 years at Dental School, I’m sure those of you who have just graduated are getting your teeth into working out in practice! You have to complete your Dental Foundation Training (DFT) in order to get your NHS performer number but after this year you will be let loose to forge your own career in the world of dentistry.

So what options do you have...? 

1. Dental Core Training

After completing your DFT, you could go back into hospital or into the salaried dental services for Dental Core Training (DCT).

DCT allows you to develop your skills as:

  • You are exposed to many different supervisors who each have their own style of dentistry
  • You can work with experts and therefore work together to treat more complicated cases
  • There is funding available for study leave courses
  • You can get involved in research and audit projects which is useful if you're thinking about pursuing a career in academia

Taking this route is the first step into considering specialising, but there is no obligation to do so. A lot of dentists will do DCT to build on the skills they have learnt in DFT and then return to practice, although there are DCT years 2 and 3 available for those wishing to undertake more training.

There are different options within DCT you can choose; from a Oral Maxillofacial post to Paediatrics to Community dentistry, although the majority are based in MaxFax units or Dental Hospitals.

The application process for DCT in many parts of the country is similar to DFT with a centralised application and ranking of posts but in some areas you will have to apply separately (see the COPDEND website).

Read more about my experience of DCT here

2. Associate

The majority of dentistry is carried out in primary care, so it makes sense that most dentists end up in practice whether it be NHS, private or mixed. There is such variety within practices and you don’t just have to work in only one - I know many dentists who work part-time in several different practices.

If you choose to become an associate dentist, you will be self-employed which has tax benefits but remember you will have to split your income with your principal as well as contribute to your lab costs (see more about finances here). It can also mean that your income can vary depending on how much work you do.

Many young dentists are now finding associate positions with corporates. While there is some negativity surrounding corporates there can be advantages in working for them such as networking opportunities, clinical support and CPD.

If you choose to work in an NHS practice be realistic with your UDA target. If you fail to hit it you will have to pay clawback! Work out how many UDAs you can do in a day to decide your target - typically a post-DFT dentist could achieve 4000-6000 UDAs depending on the hours worked.

Becoming an associate may sound dull for some, but there are plenty of ways to develop your skills in practice and you could even go on courses to offer treatments such as short term orthodontics or Botox to your patients.

3. Locuming

Locuming can offer flexibility with working hours and days but can mean a less stable income every month.

There are several agencies you can sign up with to help you find long and short term locum positions and My Dentist also offer a post-DFT locum post called a Regional Employed Dentist where you work within a specific area and you have a set UDA target.

Locuming gives you a variety of experiences through working in different practices with different teams. It can also be a stepping stone to a more permanent position in a practice and doesn’t necessarily mean changing practice every few days as long term positions can open up such as maternity leave.

4. The Armed Forces

Whether you choose to work in the army, the navy or the royal air force, there are lots of incentives to attract you to the armed forces. These advantages have to be weighed against having to move around a lot and the tie in period - the minimum is around 5 years.

Some of these advantages include:

  • Grants and bursaries during training
  • Competitive salaries
  • Competitive pension plans and annual leave
  • Accommodation provided
  • Health and education plans for you and your family

When working in the armed forces you have the freedom to provide whatever care you deem necessary and there are no UDA targets to reach; however, there are other restrictions you must work to such as what can be achievable working in the forces environment.

5. Overseas

Moving abroad to practise dentistry is becoming increasingly popular. Common destinations include Australia, Dubai and Singapore.

There are agencies you can register with to help you find a job, but make sure you start your visa applications early and contact each country’s regulator in case you need to take entrance exams and if they recognise your dental qualification. Some countries such as the USA and Canada do not recognise the UK Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) and you will have to undergo further training if you wish to practise in these countries.

6. Principal/partner

Although it is not an option for most young dentists, there are some instances where dentists have bought their own practice or become a partner early on in their career.

Despite popular belief that the corporates are buying up everything, according to Frank Taylor and Associates they only account for only 8% of the marketplace today so the majority of practices are owned individually by dentists or in partnership.

The market for dental practices is getting more and more competitive, especially in big cities like London but if you’re feeling up to the challenge of running your own business or like the idea of being your own boss, buying a dental practice may be for you! Read more about how to start up a dental practice here.

So what should you choose? If you’re unsure, it may be useful to meet other dentists so that you have a clear idea of the choices available. Over the course of your DFT, your ideas about the next step in your career are likely to change as you gain more experience and discover what options there are in the world of dentistry.

So what do you think you'll get up to? Let me know in comments below!

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