A Career in Restorative Dentistry: The Academic Pathway

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. There are two main training pathways in most dental specialties, the NHS and academic routes.

Restorative Dentistry involves the restoration of diseased, injured, or abnormal teeth to normal function. This includes all aspects of  Endodontics, Periodontics, Prosthodontics and Implantology.

In the first article of a two-part series, Jamie Dickie, Specialty Registrar in Restorative Dentistry, discusses a career as an academic in this field.

Click here for the next article in the series on the NHS Pathway for specialty training in Restorative Dentistry.

Mr Jamie Dickie | BDS, MFDS RCPS (Glasg), MEd, FHEA

Clinical Lecturer/Honorary Specialty Registrar in Restorative Dentistry

University of Glasgow Dental School

I originally graduated BDS from the University of Glasgow in 2009. I then completed vocational training (VT) in general practice and dental foundation (now CT1) posts in hospital and community health services. My hospital placement allowed me to gain experience in Restorative Dentistry, Oral Surgery and Oral Medicine. During this time, I also complete the membership examinations for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow’s Faculty of Dental Surgery (MFDS).

From 2011 to 2013, I worked as a Senior House Officer (now CT2) in Restorative Dentistry, Paediatric Dentistry, Orthodontics and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, before being appointed as a locum Specialty Dentist in Restorative Dentistry.

In 2014, I was appointed Clinical Lecturer/Honorary Specialty Registrar in Restorative Dentistry at the University of Glasgow and subsequently obtained a Master of Education (MEd) in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education in 2017. I am currently working on a PhD study alongside my specialist clinical training.

A Career in Restorative Dentistry (Part 1): The Academic Pathway

What is Restorative Dentistry?

Restorative Dentistry is a specialty that encompasses four disciplines:

  • Endodontics – diagnosis and treatment (both conventional and surgical) of problems concerning the root canal system;
  • Periodontology – diagnosis and treatment (both surgically and non-surgically) of conditions affecting the supportive tooth tissues;
  • Fixed and Removable Prosthodontics – restoration and replacement of teeth;
  • Implantology – placement and restoration of implant fixtures.

Many patients require treatment plans where there is a degree of overlap between these disciplines. Therefore, Restorative Dentists need to have a thorough understanding and skill set in each of them in order to provide holistic care.

You essentially have 2 jobs – a clinical one and a university one. The clinical side involves examining, diagnosing, treatment planning and treating patients whose Restorative treatment needs are complex and out with the remit of general dental practice. You may also be required to provide treatment plans for general practitioners to follow.

Some patients also require input from a variety of specialities. Therefore, Restorative Dentists are usually a key contributor to multidisciplinary clinics. Examples of such clinics include those for treating hypodontia, head and neck cancer and cleft lip and palate.

The university side centres on research and teaching commitments. Your responsibilities are to contribute to the university’s research strategy, prepare and deliver lectures and tutorials, provide chairside supervision for undergraduate and postgraduate students (in both clinical and pre-clinical settings) and participate in the preparation and delivery of examinations.

You will also be a member of various committees for both the NHS and the university.

The proportion of time you spend on each of these areas will depend on your agreed job plan. The major difference between a NHS trainee and an academic trainee is that the latter will be assigned more time for teaching and research instead of clinics. However, by the end of training you are still expected to be just as skilled and knowledgeable as your NHS counterparts.

Since an academic training pathway gives you additional university roles on top of your clinical training, I would say that those who are considering this pathway need to have an interest in teaching and/or research as well as Restorative Dentistry.

Clinicians who are interested in multiple Restorative disciplines and working closely with other disciplines. As mentioned above, if you wish to be an academic trainee, then you should have a passion for teaching and/or research.

I’ve always had an artistic side and felt, from a clinical perspective, that Restorative is the discipline within Dentistry that embodies this the most.

I was always interested in teaching and thought that it would be rewarding to pass on your knowledge and skills to other practitioners at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. This has certainly proved to be the case!

Originally, I did not strive to have a research component within my training. However, by the end of my masters study, I found research enjoyable and worthwhile. So much so, I have now embarked on a PhD.

Getting appointed to the job was definitely a highlight. All the hard work and dedication that had went into the junior training posts paid off!

I was inspired by a number of Restorative Consultants (both past and present) as a student. After seeing their depth of knowledge and the difference they could make for their patients, I wanted to pursue a similar career to them.

Pros & cons of a career in Academic Restorative Dentistry

  • Interesting and rewarding clinical cases
  • More variety in your working week – clinical, teaching and research
  • Eligible to apply for consultant posts at the end of training (i.e. no post-CCST qualification required)
  • Very demanding work and study load
  • Longer training pathway compared to other specialities

A typical week as an academic in Restorative Dentistry

Since your time is split 3 ways (clinical, research and teaching), you rarely have a ‘typical’ week. However, I personally think this variety is what keeps the job interesting and ensures you develop a skill set that isn’t purely clinical. If I were to try and describe how my time is spent most weeks, it would probably be something like this:

Clinical

  • Attend consultant clinics to examine, diagnose and treatment plan for new patients
  • 3 x treatment sessions (endodontics, periodontology, fixed and removable prosthetics and/or implantology)

Research

  • 2 x sessions

Teaching

  • 2 x sessions – chairside clinical supervision of undergraduate students

Administration

  • Writing letters, organising patient appointments etc.

Self-instruction

  • Receive teaching from consultant staff
  • Personal reading/study time

Specialty Training Pathway

You are of course not required to join a specialist list to practise Restorative Dentistry, however, only dentists registered on the GDC held specialist list have the right to use the ‘specialist’ title in the UK.

To be granted entry to the list an applicant must have been awarded a Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training (CCST) as a result of completing a GDC approved training programme, with a dedicated national training number (NTN).

Entry Requirements

  • GDC registration
  • MFDS/MJDF/MFD
  • At the time of interview, candidates should have a minimum of two years post-graduate experience (General Professional Training). This may include DFT/VT and DCT or GPT/LDFT, i.e. at least 12 months experience of hospital dentistry and 12 months of foundation training in general practice.
  • Candidates should have also successfully completed DCT2 at the time of post commencement

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).

If possible, it would worthwhile gaining some experience in teaching and participation in research projects prior to applying for clinical academic posts; however, these may not be essential criteria for the position. Some clinical academics would even suggest undertaking a postgraduate certificate in education (e.g. a PGcert) if you are considering an academic career as it would strengthen your application.

An exemplar person specification can be found in the ‘Further Information’ section at the bottom of the page.

Training Pathway

Completion of an Academic Restorative training programme involves:

  1. Satisfactory completion of training period– 5 years* full-time (7500 hours) or an agreed part-time equivalent period. The programme content will be approximately split as 60% Clinical, 25% academic and 15% research.
  2. Towards the end of the training programme, StRs (both academic and NHS) sit the Intercollegiate Specialty Fellowship Examination (ISFE). Passing the ISFE and completing other programme requirements culminates in the award of the Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training (CCST), which allows individuals to be recognised as a specialist by the GDC
  3. One may also typically undertake the Specialty Membership Examination in one of the Restorative mono-specialties at a Royal Surgical College

*Allowances may be granted for past training and experience in relation to the duration of training. This may be applicable to candidates with a prior research degree or completion of specialist training in one of the restorative mono-specialties. Please see the GDC Curriculum for Specialty Training (Appendix 2) in the Further Information section at the bottom of this page.

Career Options

  • Academic post (teaching and/or research with honorary NHS specialist or consultant title)
  • Specialist/Consultant in NHS secondary care setting
  • Specialist practice – NHS/private/mixed
  • Specialist in Public Dental Service

Conclusion

To conclude, a clinical academic career pathway is very demanding, especially within the training period, but is also very rewarding. You have opportunities to develop a range of skills alongside those associated with specialist clinic practice which can present a greater range of future job opportunities and offer greater variety to your working week.

Further Information

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