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Hospital dental services

The primary role of the hospital dental service is the provision of specialist advice and treatment for cases of special difficulty.

These are referred to hospitals by general dental, salaried dental services and medical practitioners, or for patients admitted to hospital as a result of trauma. The hospital service also provides outpatient care in special cases where there are medical considerations that make it desirable for patients to be treated in a hospital setting.


Specialist hospital services are provided from two settings – local acute hospitals and dental teaching hospitals. The acute hospitals usually manage patients requiring oral and maxillofacial, orthodontic and restorative dentistry services. The dental teaching hospitals, in addition, offer opportunities for the management of patients, training and research in other dental specialties (see below).


A dentist working in a hospital post has the same terms and conditions of service as hospital doctors, as well as a very similar career structure. The hours may not be flexible and time will be spent ‘on call’, sometimes resulting in long working sessions. Dentists generally work as part of a team, have access to specialised diagnostic facilities, and work with consultants from other medical and dental specialties.


Career pathway

Your career will usually start in dental core training (DCT) followed by a specialty training post. Following three or more years of training, there are the options of career grade specialist or consultant appointment.

DCT recruitment is centralised in Scotland and national recruitment has been introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Within the dental specialties, career pathways vary slightly, but all those aspiring to enter specialist training should complete two years of postgraduate training. This will usually include a minimum of one year in a secondary care post, for example in a dental hospital or district general hospital. Completion of the MJDF or MFDS diploma at this point may also help future applications you will make.


You can then apply for a formal training programme in your chosen specialty and become a Specialist Registrar (StR). There are various examinations and diplomas that you will need to complete during your training. Once you have completed your training satisfactorily, a Certificate of Specialist Training (CST) will be issued and will entitle you to have your name on the specialist list held by the GDC.



The GDC has established distinctive specialist titles for a range of branches of dentistry. This decision was taken for a number of reasons, but largely to protect patients from unjustified claims of specialist expertise.
Specialist lists:


  • Oral surgery
  • Dental Public Health
  • Restorative dentistry and its mono-specialties: endodontics, periodontics and prosthodontics
  • Orthodontics
  • Paediatric dentistry
  • Oral medicine
  • Oral and maxillofacial pathology
  • Oral microbiology
  • Dental and maxillofacial radiology
  • Special care dentistry


The specialist list for oral and maxilliofacial surgery is held by the General Medical Council (GMC), due to the requirement for an undergraduate medical degree, and is covered by separate legislation.


Further information

Dr Helen Falcon MBE, former Postgraduate Dental Dean and former Chair of the UK Committee of Postgraduate Dental Deans and Directors (COPDEND), has written a detailed guide to dental specialty training. This free guide gives an overview of dental specialty training in the UK and aims to support potential trainees with a guide to the key issues you need to consider and the main organisations that are involved in specialty training.


If you are thinking of specialising, young dentist, Reena Wadia, gives her advice:





Further information

You can find out more about working in hospital dental services in our Career Guide.