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Dental Foundation/Vocational Training

In your final year of uni? One of the many hoops you’ll have to jump through this year is applying for a DFT/VT Post.
In the following article Jimmy Boyle discusses the application process as well as what you can expect in your DFT/VT year.

Jimmy Boyle | BDS, MRCPS (Glas)

Assistant Director of Postgraduate Dental Education, Scotland

General Dental Practitioner

Jimmy is the Assistant Director of Postgraduate Dental Education in Scotland, as well as a General Dental Practitioner. His experience in these roles as well as his time spent as both a VT Trainer and VT Advisor make him perfectly suited to giving you an insight into what to expect from DFT/VT, as well as the application process.

Dental Foundation / Vocational Training (DFT/VT)

Vocational Training (VT) in Scotland, known as Dental Foundation Training (DFT) in the rest of the United Kingdom, is a programme designed to help recently qualified dentists make the transition from undergraduate teaching to independent practice.

If training had to be summed up in one word, that word would be “support”. All aspects of training, and the aspirations of those involved in its delivery, are designed to provide you with a supported environment while developing into a practitioner capable of independent practice. Just as no two people are the same, no two training experiences are identical and the training provided depends on the needs and abilities of the individual.

Training normally, but not always, takes place over a period of 12 months and consists of working in a supervised practice, while supported by an educational programme. Each new graduate will be paired with an experienced dentist who acts as their trainer for the year. Normally this is a one to one relationship but in some cases a new graduate will have multiple trainers. Likewise a trainer can be paired with multiple new graduates. While entry to VT/DFT is normally direct from graduation, in some circumstances candidates will be able to access training for a short time after graduation.

Typically, regions will be divided into schemes and these are of such a size as to facilitate small group teaching. Each group is led by an adviser (Scotland), or training programme director (rest of the UK). The adviser or TPD organises and facilitates study days as well as providing support to the scheme’s trainers and VDPs/DFTs.

All trainers undergo a selection process which ensures a certain quality of practice facilities and personal standards of the trainer. A trainer is expected to demonstrate high standards of ethical and clinical practice as well as a commitment to postgraduate education.

The primary function of the trainer is to support you on a day-to-day basis and guide you through unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations which you may encounter. They will ensure that you have an appropriate workload and that you work in a protected environment, ensuring that you do not feel out of your depth.

It’s important to remember that you will be a dentist with your own registration and, as such, you will be treated and expected to behave accordingly.

Your trainer will try to ensure that you have a full range of experiences within your training. Workload will be light initially to help you to find your feet and your trainer will gradually increase this as your confidence and ability develops. The aim is that by the end of your training you are able to work at a similar pace as an independent practitioner.

Honestly, there aren’t really any cons!

The educational programmes which have been developed and are provided (mostly through study days) are excellent. They are designed to give you the information you need to succeed in practice, and engender the professional standards and commitment to ongoing professional development which all dentists need.

The support you will receive in practice, and through interaction with peers at educational events, is invaluable and will help you develop and maintain friendships which can last throughout your entire career.

A typical day…

There’s no such thing! This is general practice and every day will be different. Each patient brings their own individual personality and dentition and it is this variety that makes working in practice such an attractive career option. The only aspect of your training which doesn’t change daily is the availability of help and support when you need it.

Many trainers will make time, especially early in the training, to chat with you at the start of your day and identify any challenging or interesting cases. Often this will mean that the trainer modifies his/her own schedule to ensure that support is readily available.

Often the day will involve some form of assessment/monitoring of your progress, such as direct observation of your work, tutorials or a meeting to discuss your progress. At other times, the day may involve no formal monitoring and your trainer may simply find time for a chat!

Application Process

Keep an eye on COPDEND and NES websites for details, and remember that applications must be submitted well in advance of the start of your training. Typically, applications will close in the September before your training year begins, so do not miss the deadline.

If you are unsuccessful in securing a place in training, there are other ways in which you can demonstrate that you have undergone training of an equivalent quality (equivalence). This will, however, require you to obtain employment as an assistant to another dentist, and to design your own study programme! I would suggest that VT/DFT represents far and away the easiest, and best, route to a career in general practice.

VT in Scotland commences at the start of August each year. DFT in the rest of the UK has a start date at the beginning of September.

In Scotland at present, legislation exists which requires you to satisfy attendance and assessment criteria before you can be awarded a certificate of Satisfactory Completion.

The rest of UK intends to introduce Satisfactory Completion in 2016, although details of the assessment format may differ.

On completion of VT/DFT, you will be eligible to work independently in general practice. Typically, in the latter part of your training you will in seek your next post, which may or may not be within general practice. It’s not unusual for dentists to take up associate posts within their training practice, if these are offered!

The end of your training period does not mean that your postgraduate learning is complete! All dentists must be committed to lifelong learning, whether this takes the form of additional qualifications or individual CPD courses.

Further Information


Dental Foundation Training (DFT) 2016 National Recruitment (England, Northern Ireland & Wales)

  • Applications Open: 25 August 2015
  • Applications Close: 22 September 2015

Dental Vocational Training (DVT) 2016 Recruitment (Scotland)

  • Applications Open: 28 August 2015
  • Applications Close: 28 September 2015


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