One great thing about dentistry is the number of choices we have, whether that is the type of practice we ultimately want to work in, the things we want to focus on and the area of dentistry we want to spend more time practicing and developing. Another great thing is the power we have to make changes and try something new. So it really isn't the end of the world if you change your mind and want to go down a different path. A degree in dentistry is also a fantastic qualification. This degree demonstrates skills in communication, professionalism, manual dexterity, organisation, dedication and commitment. This means that if dentistry isn't for you, it wasn't wasted time and you have plenty of transferable skills.
Most people who qualify in the UK complete dental foundation training, allowing them to get a performer number and work in NHS practice. After this, there are almost countless options available, however I've tried to summarise the most popular options and added a few alternative ideas too!
Dental Core Training (DCT)
The usual way to secure a DCT job is through national recruitment. Details for this can be found on the COPDEND website. Dental core training is a structured training pathway of between 1 and 3 years. There are jobs available in many different specialties including oral surgery, restorative dentistry, orthodontics, paediatrics and oral medicine. Most DCT jobs are for 1 year however there are more short term post available. DCT jobs are a great way to prepare for specialist training and to meet the requirements for SpR training. There are targets to meet depending on the region you work in, such as audits, teaching, study days and observed clinical exercises (SLE/DOPS/mini-CEX etc). This can seem like a nuisance at the time however it does encourage you to keep progressing and gives you great content for your portfolio and CV. Even if you don't want to do specialist training core training is a fantastic way to develop your skills and confidence in a supportive environment. I personally think it is easier to get involved with research projects whilst working in a hospital environment, so if you're wanting to go down the academic route this is something worth considering.
With so many options available, it can feel as though staying in general practice after foundation training isn't making progress in your career and you're going to get 'left behind'. Actually, staying in general practice allows you to develop your clinical skills and ultimately if you're happy it is pretty irrelevant what everyone else is doing! A great thing about DCT is there is no age or time restriction on when you can apply to do training. Therefore if you decide after working in practice that you've changed your mind you can still apply. If anything, you will do better at interview as you have more knowledge, experience and likely confidence. For the first years in particular it is preferable if you can work in a supportive environment with senior dentists who are happy to act as mentors. Don't take on work that is more complex than you are competent to carry out, seek second opinions and advice when you are unsure and invest in good quality courses to further your knowledge and skills.
Immediately out of foundation training you might struggle to secure a teaching position (plus it may not be entirely appropriate with only one year of experience), however it isn't uncommon for those with 2 years of experience to start working as a clinical supervisor in dental schools. This can be a great way to add variety in to your work, be part of a bigger team and help dentists of the future. This role requires patience and understanding, as often you will be supervising students doing a procedure for the first time on a patient. It is hard to remember what it was like, when after just one year in practice your speed will have sky-rocketed compared to your undergraduate abilities!
Another way to add variety in to your timetable is to get involved with prison dentistry. This has its own challenges as I'm sure you can imagine, however it allows you to work in a different clinical environment and adds another dimension to the dentistry you do. Part time prison dentistry jobs are available so this doesn't have to be all consuming.
There are jobs available in community which do not require specialist training or for you to be on a dental core training pathway. Dental officers work with many different types of patients including children, those with complex medical histories and patients with special needs or disabilities. Whilst working in community some people choose to complete further training in sedation, yet another string to the bow!
Staff/trust grade jobs
There are sometimes jobs available in oral and maxillofacial surgery which are not through the DCT training pathway. These usually involve the same roles however there aren't the same requirements as DCT, in that you don't have to attend study days or complete the mandatory portfolios. A disadvantage to this is that it doesn't count as completing DCT, therefore you couldn't go on to apply for DCT2 for example. That being said, for some specialty training DCT is not needed as long as the competencies have been met, therefore a maxfax staff/trust grade job would be beneficial and meet the requirements.
There is scope to go in to both medical and dental recruitment following completion of a dentistry degree. This may not be the first thing that springs to mind, however if you find that the clinical side of dentistry isn't something that you enjoy, it is certainly another option.
Research and sales
Many people working for healthcare brands have a background in dentistry and medicine. If you aren't enjoying the clinical side of things but still want to be involved, why not consider taking a break and working on something such as product marketing or educating patients and clinicians about a brand?
Finally, dental law is something which an increasing number of dentists are getting involved with. If you're feeling that clinical dentistry isn't for you, there are plenty of law conversion courses around where your organisation, communication skills and work ethic can be put to good use! There are some good low interest loans available for education, however you may feel more comfortable working for a few years first to save up to fund this change in career.
I hope this has given you some ideas and inspiration! Good luck whatever you choose to do next.