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Resume Surgeon > Resume Surgeon Advice > Industry Spotlight > Industry Spotlight: Working as a Dentist

Becoming a Dentist can take years of studying and work experience but, once qualified, the job offers variety and flexibility as Dentist Chris Preston explains. As owner of the Riverside Dental Practice in the UK, Chris tells Resume Surgeon what it’s really like to be a Dentist and offers some career advice.

Tell Us About Your Career Background Before You Opened Riverside Dental Practice

I lived in Kidderminster, West Midlands and qualified from Bristol University Dental school in 1997. I worked in Bristol and Weston Super Mare before moving to Riverside in Braunton, North Devon in 2001. I worked as an Associate for the previous owner until 2006 when he sold it to me.

What Made You want to Become a Dentist?

I enjoyed Human Biology a lot but the idea of having a career that was based in research or laboratory didn’t appeal. I looked at medicine but didn’t like the idea of dealing with sick people and bad news all day as well as the long hours for Junior Doctors. I then thought Dentistry would be a good alternative!

What Are the Advantages of Owning Your Own Practice?

The two big advantages are being master of your own destiny as far as how you want to practice e.g. how you look after your own patients, where you work, what hours and holiday you take and your job security is in your own hands. There is more earning potential obviously but the other big reason for me was to have something to show for all the hard work at the end of my career, especially with the rapidly decreasing value of pensions. It gave my family security financially and geographically!

What Was Studying Like and What Qualifications Are Required?

When I did Dentistry the A level offer was a B and two C’s but it’s three A’s now and it’s a very competitive course to get into. Anything in the way of work experience will help people applying now! The course itself is not terrifically hard as long as you put the work in and keep up with your assignments. It’s a pretty full on course with a full week of lectures or practical sessions 9-5 every day and much shorter holidays than normal university courses once you reach the clinical years (from year 3, it’s a five year course!)

What Is a Typical Day at Work Like?

A typical day for me starts at 8am and won’t finish until 6pm – with anything from 15 to 35 patients and hopefully a long enough lunch break to squeeze a surf in! I’m not a completely typical dentist though!! Dentistry is funny in that you can have a couple of hours of twiddling your thumbs when patients don’t turn up for appointments then be straight into a manic couple of hours if people phone up for emergency appointments or something goes wrong or both! Every day can be very different depending on what walks through your door and also on how your practice is set up and what sort of Dentistry your practice provides. As a general Dentist you can be checking kids teeth one minute, doing minor surgery to cut a broken tooth out of someone’s jaw the next and straight after be fitting some cosmetic work to transform a patient’s smile!

What Career Options Are There For Someone Wanting to Work in Dentistry? Is There Much Career Progression?

There can be great career progression. Fundamentally when you qualify you make a decision to go straight into practice as a general Dentist where career progression is partly about being a small business man or you go into the hospital system and work towards specialisation as a Consultant Oral Surgeon or Orthodontist for example.

Name Three Personality Traits an Individual Has to Have to Succeed in this Industry

Be prepared to work hard, be flexible and able to think well under pressure and adapt to changing circumstances, be a “people person” – communication skills are perhaps the most important thing.

What Skills and Qualities Do You Look for in a Resume?

That’s a difficult one as many dental jobs in practice aren’t as competed for as other jobs. I’m looking for someone who’s got a similar philosophy on Dentistry to me and is going to fit in with our way of doing things and with the personalities already in the practice. It’s a fairly small tight-nit team so the person is almost more important than their bits of paper!

What Advice Would You Give to a Candidate Looking to Work in this Industry?

Like i said it’s difficult to get on the course so assuming you are predicted the correct results from your exams, what you want to do is try and get as much experience of Dentistry as you can, observe in your local practice, contact your local community dental team, local Orthodontist and local oral surgery department. It’s also good to have a hobby that proves you have some manual dexterity like playing the guitar or model making. Make sure you have really good communication skills too as building rapport quickly with patients is super important.

To find out more about Chris visit his surfing blog – click here

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