As a principal dentist for a four-surgery, NHS, general practice in Salford, Greater Manchester, general practice provides me with the chance to meet and treat patients from a wide socio-demographic background. This means no one day is ever the same.
The greatest reward of general practice is seeing a patient progressing through their dental journey: from being a high-needs patient who may have initially attended in pain; to a low-needs patient, who has taken on board all the preventive, dietary and brushing instructions they have been given.
We can be involved in fundamentally changing and improving patients' lives, which is satisfying. Providing good quality care and putting a patient's needs first will result in the practice being trusted in the local community, which is rewarding too.
General practice allows you to maintain skills in all disciplines of general dental care. Should you decide you want to focus on a particular discipline, there are ever-increasing opportunities to offer more specialist services within primary care, such as sedation or oral surgery.
There are many challenges involved in NHS general practice and the most notorious is the requirement to complete units of dental activity (UDA) targets and wondering what changes the future contract will bring.
Running a practice involves the challenges of managing staff, keeping up to date with the increasing administration burden (for example, Care Quality Commission inspections and policies, human resource policies and HTM 01-05) and meeting their associated costs. As dentistry is becoming more consumer-focused and patients increasingly consider themselves to be customers, often shopping around for their dental services, managing their expectations can be challenging, especially when limited by the constraints of the NHS contract.
In order to work for the NHS, dental graduates must first complete Dental Foundation Training (DFT) or Vocational Training (VT). Upon satisfactory completion, they are then able to apply for associate positions in dental practices across the UK.
For foreign dentists, there are other routes to working for the NHS.
You can find out more about working in an NHS practice in our