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.

The specialty of Oral Medicine is concerned with the oral health care of patients with chronic, recurrent and medically related disorders of the oral and maxillofacial region, and with their diagnosis and non-surgical management.

In the following article, Professor John Gibson, Consultant in Oral Medicine, discusses how you can establish a career in this field.


Professor John Gibson | PhD MB ChB BDS FRCP(Glasg) FDS(OM)RCPS(Glasg) FFDRCS(Irel) FDSRCS(Ed)

Professor of Medicine in Relation to Dentistry and Honorary Consultant in Oral Medicine
Glasgow Dental School

What is Oral Medicine?

A typical day…

A typical day for me, as an academic, would be a teaching clinic in the morning followed by a quick sandwich lunch as I dictate the letters from the clinic and vet that day’s referral letters and review blood test and other results.  I might also have a lunch-time research or teaching team meeting, journal club or research forum.  In the afternoon I might have a meeting on the main university campus concerning administrative, research or other issues before returning to the Dental School to give an undergraduate lecture or seminar.  Returning to my room at the end of a day, opens up the notes left by my secretary for action – NHS or university – and also the many emails on various subjects.  My working days are normally 12 hours or longer, with evening administration happening 2-3 times each week.  Not for the faint-hearted!


Entry Requirements

Entry to Specialty Training Registrar posts (with National Training Numbers) is competitive and you should work on achieving as full as CV as possible at all stages prior to applying.  For example, during your undergraduate dental degree, an intercalated BSc or BDentSci might prove useful and so would a published paper or two during well-chosen elective periods, as well as the BDS or BChD degree being awarded with Honours or Commendation.

A medical degree is no longer required for entry to specialty training but I would contend that the undergraduate programme in medicine is excellent experience for a lifetime in Oral Medicine and is very helpful in confidence-building for dealing with patients who will have increasingly complex medical and therapeutic issues.  For those who don’t possess this degree, the Specialty Training programme will accommodate the need for experience in relevant aspects of medical practise e.g. dermatology, gastroenterology, psychiatry and will, accordingly, be longer than for those with a medical degree.

Full details on requirements for entry to an Oral Medicine Training Post are given in the GDC’s document Specialty Training Curriculum for Oral Medicine (2010) as follows:

“Entry to an Oral Medicine specialty training programme in the UK may follow the satisfactory completion of a two-year period of Foundation Training in dentistry which includes periods of training in primary and secondary care settings. While the Diplomas of Membership of the Joint Dental Faculties (RCS England), the Faculty of Dental Surgery (RCS Edinburgh/RCPS Glasgow) or the Faculty of Dentistry (RCS Ireland) remain useful indicators of completion of this period, it is not essential that a candidate holds one of these qualifications.  It is recognised that the achievement of competencies specified in the Curriculum for UK Dental Foundation Programme Training may be demonstrated in other ways.

The curriculum will be achieved by completing the necessary specialty posts within training programmes.”

Training pathway:

That same document also addresses the length of training:

“The normal duration of training is five years. Accredited prior learning, which may include possession of a medical degree, may be taken into account in assessing the agreed period of training. The practice for recognising prior learning is attached as appendix 1 to this curriculum. A CCST in Oral Medicine will be awarded by the General Dental Council on the recommendation of the local Postgraduate Dental Dean following:-

  • Evidence of satisfactory completion of the Oral Medicine curriculum and the agreed training period
  • Satisfactory completion of the Intercollegiate Specialty Fellowship examination in Oral Medicine
  • Successful outcome in the Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP) process as outlined in ‘A Guide to Postgraduate Dental Specialty Training in the UK’ (Dental Gold Guide).”

For academic training jobs, there may be an expectation (and, indeed, a requirement) to complete a higher degree – Masters or Doctorate – during the period of training.  The academic pathway can be challenging and is not for the faint-hearted!  On successful completion of academic training, you may expect to continue teaching and research for the rest of your professional life – meeting universities’ requirements for publications, PhD and Masters students supervision and achieving grant funding.  A number of academics in Oral Medicine in the UK have gone on to lead dental schools and take other senior positions in universities and wider academic life, including the GDC.

Career options after specialising…

For those completing a conventional training pathway, there are increasing numbers of NHS consultant posts available.  A number of consultants in Oral Medicine in the UK have gone on to take positions as Lead Clinicians and Clinical Directors as well as senior positions in Deaneries and Royal Colleges.


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