A Career in Paediatric Dentistry

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.

Paediatric Dentistry involves the comprehensive therapeutic oral health care for children from birth through adolescence, including care for those who demonstrate intellectual, medical, physical, psychological and/or emotional problems.

In the following article Caroline Campbell, Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry, discusses how you can establish a career in this field.

Caroline Campbell | MSc, BDS, MFDS RCPSG, M Paed Dent (Ed), FDS Paed Dent (Gla)

Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry

University of Glasgow

I graduated in 1996 from the University of Glasgow and took part in the first GPT scheme in Tayside-Scotland. My GPT consisted of VT in Coupar Angus, community dental service (CDS) in Aberdeen and a SHO hospital post in Dundee Dental Hospital and School (DDH&S) (Ortho/Paeds and oral surgery). I then worked for a further year in Tayside working again within both the CDS Perth and hospital dental settings DDH&S. This further year as an SHO in restorative dentistry and 6 months in CDS enabled me to develop my CV and complete my community VT.  I then worked in Bristol for a year gaining further experience with both 6 months posts in Paediatric Dentistry and Restorative Dentistry. I obtained my MFDS which had recently become available whilst in Bristol. A further years CDS locum post in Glasgow and 6 months in a staff grade post at Glasgow Royal Hospital for Sick were completed prior to starting Specialist Registrar training in Paediatric Dentistry in 2002. In 2004 I obtained my MSc by Research (a RCT on G.A. preparation techniques) and M Paed Dent (RCSEd). Consultant training and FDS Paed Dent (RCPSG) were completed in 2008 (part-time). In 2008 I was appointed as a Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry at Glasgow Dental Hospital and School with a Role in undergraduate training. I have a special interest in the treatment of dentally phobic children. In 2008 training in medical hypnosis was undertaken and in 2009 a Neuro Linguistic Programming Practitioner qualification.

A Career in Paediatric Dentistry

Paediatric Dentistry is the practice, teaching and research into the comprehensive and therapeutic oral health care for children from birth to adolescence, including care for children who demonstrate intellectual, medical, physical, psychological and/or emotional problems.

  • Provide a full range of oral health care to anxious children and children with special needs.
  • Specialised management of children with oral and dental developmental problems.
  • Manage the damage sustained to teeth and the mouth following traumatic injury.
  • Contribute to multidisciplinary care of children with complex problems e.g. cleft lip and palate, hypodontia, those with medical conditions which oral health may have an impact on holistic care.
  • Paediatric Dentistry is unlike any other dental specialty in that it covers all aspects of oral health care for children such as restorative care including endodontic treatment and prosthetics, minor oral surgical procedures, and interceptive orthodontics. Paediatric dentists also work closely with paediatricians, surgeons and anaesthetists as part of a team in the overall care of children with complex medical problems. In addition they may work with other agencies such as health visitors and social workers in managing vulnerable children.
  • Treatment for children can be carried out under local anaesthetic using a range of behaviour management skills. Sometimes it is necessary, because of medical or behavioural problems, to treat children using conscious sedation or general anaesthesia.

There are many positive aspects regarding a career in paediatric dentistry. Choosing to work in general dental practice, the public dental service (PDS) or in the hospital setting allows experience of working with children and adolescents at differing levels of specialist practice. The challenge for many graduates is to find which setting in dentistry suits you and the area(s) of dentistry that interests you. Working with children is extremely rewarding, however, this may be difficult due to time restraints while working within general practice. This is still possible for children who are not anxious or do not have requirements for more specialist care. The PDS setting is perfect for dentists who enjoy working with children and want to focus on working with children who may be more challenging to treat. There may be the opportunity to undertake further qualifications. The PDS setting employs dentists both with and without specialist training qualifications. Specialist training can be very competitive to get into with national recruitment now taking place for specialty and consultant training posts. This takes three years to complete to specialist level and five years to complete to consultant level. These training pathways give the opportunity to undertake post graduate qualifications including MSc’s and PhD’s. These are beneficial if academic hospital practice is your final goal. Teaching paediatric dentistry is very rewarding, with the ability to ensure generations of graduates are well informed to nurture and provide care for children in all settings. This is clearly not the chosen pathway for all as it is continuous in nature and the workload challenging.

First and foremost, a paediatric dentist needs to enjoy working with children and be able to effectively communicate with them. A paediatric dentist also needs: 

  • Excellent evidence-based clinical skills.
  • A broad understanding of dentistry as a whole, with a willingness to develop their specialised knowledge.
  • Good interpersonal communication skills with parents/guardians, other members of the dental team and other specialties, as well as with children and adolescents.
  • To be a team-player who is able to both follow guidance and lead the dental team. Flexibility, decisiveness and resilience. A keen interest in continuing their own personal career development and a passion for learning.

I knew from my first encounters whilst treating children during the undergraduate hospital and outreach training that I wanted to work with children. I found this challenging and rewarding in equal measures. It took me a few years of experience with both GPT and SHO posts to decide that working in the hospital setting was where I would be best able to do the work that I wanted to. I had always had a special interest in helping children and their families who were crippled with dental phobic and the negative cycles that result. The hospital setting allows me to offer a full range of treatments to these children and ensure others have the necessary skills also to deliver this care. 

A typical day…

One positive aspect regarding my job is there is no such thing as a typical day. The variety is of course what keeps it interesting and challenging. A day may consist of academic research meetings, teaching and clinical work. From an NHS viewpoint I assess and treat phobic adolescents at Gartnavel Hospital with IV sedation, Assess and treat patients with complex medical conditions at Royal Hospital for Sick Children and use advanced behaviour management techniques to treat and care for children who require all aspects of specialist care from a consultant paediatric dentist. I also teach paediatric dentistry in both the hospital and community setting. Running a department with consultant colleagues over three sites and being involved in both undergraduate and postgraduate training also results in a varied working week.

Being able to do all of the above and have a full family life. Having multiple parents say the silent “thank you” where you know you have just made a difference for the better to a child’s life. Winning the European Academy of Paediatric Dentistry Young Scientist Research prize in Barcelona for my MSc project in 2004.

I find treating children who are dentally phobic and may not managed to accept treatment with others the most rewarding cases to treat. I have not found one particular case more rewarding than any others.

Specialty training pathway

You are not required to join a specialist list to practise paediatric 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

To get onto a specialty programme you will need to demonstrate broad experience in general dentistry including hospital, community and general dental practice. A two-year foundation training programme or an equivalent scheme would give the desired range of experience. In addition, a maxillo-facial post is highly desirable as is some additional experience of treating children. MFDS is desirable and due to the competitive nature probably a good idea to obtain. To make your CV more attractive it would be helpful to carry out some audit projects during your early training and to have one or two published articles to your name, especially paediatric related. You might also keep a log of paediatric experience and sedation experience. You can also attend local British Society of Paediatric Dentistry meetings to learn more about the range of the specialty and meet colleagues with similar interests.

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 Pathway

To be recognised as a specialist in paediatric dentistry in the UK you must be registered on a specialist list held by the General Dental Council. This requires a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) in paediatric dentistry which can be achieved by applying for a specialty registrar training post on a recognised paediatric dentistry training programme. Posts are available in the hospital dental service as well as with a number of programmes linked with the salaried dental service.

To qualify as a specialist you must successfully complete your supervised training programme and pass the Membership in Paediatric Dentistry examination. It is expected that a trainee who enters a full-time paediatric dentistry programme with no relevant prior training in the specialty will become qualified in three years. Part-time specialty training is also possible and would usually be completed in around five years. You would be encouraged to undertake a research degree part-time to supplement your studies and develop further a solid research base.

There is also the opportunity to apply for an academic clinical fellowship programme which provides both a clinical and academic training environment designed to provide support for individuals who have potential for development as a researcher.

Salaried specialist in the Public Dental Service, working in private practice, or continued training to become a Consultant in the NHS or following an academic career pathway.

I took quite some time (over 5 years) to start my specialist training. I worked both within the hospital and in the CDS in three different regions. However, I would not change this as I gained a broad-based experience. I now have a good understanding of what is involved when I work with my PDS colleagues, both in developing networks of care and whilst helping to run the Paediatric Outreach Program.

Advice to anyone considering a career in Paediatric Dentistry

As a specialty there is no job more rewarding than a career in Paediatric Dentistry. If you love it go for it, if you are not sure yet, gain some more experience as an SHO/CT. If you are passionate about a career in Paediatric Dentistry a well planned strategy of CV development starting as an undergraduate will allow you to develop your CV in a timely manner. This will help ensure that you are where you need to be when you start applying both for CT/SHO posts and subsequently for specialty training posts via national recruitment. The paediatric dental team at your university will be able to help you with advice and projects. Paeds specialist study modules may be available in your undergraduate programme and an elective project with a paediatric theme may help you get the most out of your time as an undergraduate. Show enthusiasm and keep up-to-date with new developments in our specialty.

Further Information

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