The GDC currently recognises 13 various fields of dentistry with regards to their specialist register. You are not required to join a specialist list to practise a specialty, however, only dentists on these specialist lists have the right to use the ‘specialist’ title. In this series of articles you can find out more about each specialty from experts in their respective fields, with advice on the career pathway as well as sharing their experiences as a specialist.

Dental Public Health is a non-clinical specialty involving the science and art of preventing oral diseases, promoting oral health to the population rather than the individual. It involves the assessment of dental health needs and ensuring dental services meet those needs.

In the following article, Dr David Conway, Consultant in Public Health discusses how you can establish a career in this field


Dr David Conway | BDS, FDS, MPH, FHEA, FFPH, PhD

Clinical Senior Lecturer in Dental Public Health (University of Glasgow Dental School)
–  t: 0141 211 9750 | e:
Honorary Consultant in Public Health (NHS National Services Scotland)
–  t: 0131 275 6164 | e:

Where have you worked and studied?

I graduated from University of Glasgow BDS in 1996. Following brief periods in general dental practice, hospital dentistry in Bristol and Edinburgh, and SHO posts in oral and maxillofacial surgery at St John’s in Livingston, I attained FDS RCS (England) in 1999.


I returned to Glasgow in 2000 for a clinical lectureship in dental public health combined with a specialist registrar training post based in NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Argyll and Clyde Health Boards. I completed the MPH at University of Glasgow in 2002 and attained the certificate of completion of specialist training in dental public health in 2005 (FDS DPH RCS) alongside Fellowship of the Faculty of Public Health ( FFPH).  I was awarded a PhD in 2008 for research on the epidemiology of oral cancer from a socioeconomic perspective.


In 2008 I took up the position of Senior Clinical Lecturer in Dental Public Health at the University of Glasgow. Since 2005 I have held the position of Honorary Consultant in Dental Public Health with NHS National Services Scotland Information Services Division where I am currently the dental clinical lead and research strategy lead.

What is Dental Public Health?

Dental Public Health is the science and art of preventing oral diseases, promoting oral health and improving quality of life through the organised efforts of society. It is about improving population health, tackling oral health inequalities, and improving the quality of dental services.

A typical day…

There is no such thing. But I can guarantee over 100 emails (not all important!!). Desk / office work – teleconferences, meetings, presentations, project management tasks. From academic perspective there is a lot of research project grant writing, paper writing / reviewing, and student mentoring. Evenings of reading are not uncommon. The best bits are opportunities to get out and engage with stakeholders in oral health – dentists, dental teams, and patients and public.


Entry Requirements

  • GDC registration
  • A minimum of two years post-graduate experience (General Professional Training). This may include DF1/VT, DF2/CT1, GPT/LDFT, i.e. at least 12 months experience of hospital dentistry and 12 months of foundation training in general practice
  • MFDS (or equivalent – usually defined as extensive experience)

The above is the minimum typically expected from prospective applicants. However, it is strongly recommended to check the essential and desirable criteria listed in the person specification provided for specific specialty training posts (StR). An exemplar person specification can be found in the ‘Further Information’ section at the bottom of the page.

Training pathways:

Health Board / Authority specialty training (4 years) including a Masters in Public Health (usually with significant oral health module and oral health project) undertaken part-time over two years.

Academic pathway (as with standard pathway) + PhD usually takes 7 years in total.
Having a MPH before entry would reduce training by a year – but is not essential.

Career options after specialising…
  • Consultant posts in dental and / or generic public health – in geographic health boards/authorities or in national health organizations (differs across countries of UK).
  • Senior Clinical Academic posts
  • Civil service posts (e.g. Dept of Health or Scottish Government)
  • International posts / opportunities (World Health Organisation)
  • Armed forces opportunities


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