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.
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.
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.
Restorative Dentistry is a specialty that encompasses four disciplines:
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
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:
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).
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.
Completion of an Academic Restorative training programme involves:
*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.
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.
Your teachers and specialists within the dental school are the best resources.