As healthcare professionals, dentists treat and advise patients about the health of their mouths and teeth. Dentists are typically self-employed practitioners who lead a team of professionals, providing care for a wide range of patients. They treat patients both through the public health service and privately; some also undertake specialised work in various sectors including hospitals and the armed forces.
A whole variety of dental procedures including:
- Diagnosing, treating and preventing oral and dental disease and malformations.
- Repairing and re-lining dentures.
- Removal of decay from the teeth and the filling of the cavities.
- Extracting teeth.
- Administration of anesthetics.
- Straightening teeth through prescription braces.
Travel: during working day not a regular feature.
Working hours: varies depending on the practice but can involve evenings and weekend work but not normally shift work. However, hospitals may provide additional out of hours emergency services at weekends and Public Holidays.
Location: mainly in towns or cities throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment: very possible as most work in private practice.
In Ireland, dental healthcare is principally provided by independent general dental practitioners (GDP) and by the community dental services (e.g. the school dentist) under the auspices of each Health Board.
Dentists practicing in Northern Ireland usually either work in a National Health Service (NHS) dental practice, where treatment is subsidised or free for patients, a private dental practice, where patients pay the full cost of treatment, or a mixed dental practice (NHS and Private).
The majority of dental graduates enter general practice, while others enter the public dental service which provides care for medically entitled patients and children through the public health clinics operated by the Health Boards.
A small number of graduates find opportunities in the dental hospitals as house officers or registrars, perhaps with postgraduate qualifications leading to consultant positions. A university teaching career for those with a good academic record is another possibility. Teaching is always combined with opportunities for research. Many large companies sponsor dental clinics for their employees and a career as an Industrial Dentist has the attraction of enabling the practitioner to run an efficient clinic based on the resources of a large organisation.
Once qualified, many dentists with post-graduate training and qualifications limit their practice to various specialities for example orthodontics, endodontics, periodontics and paediatric dentistry.
Entry requirements and training
Dentists practising in Ireland must be registered by the Dental Council of Ireland and work under its code of professional behaviour and dental ethics.
Dentist practising in Northern Ireland must be registered with the General Dental Council (GDC). If employed within a practice providing National Health Service treatment registering with the relevant Local Health Trust in Northern Ireland is also required.
Specific degree subjects required
Five-year degree programmes can be completed in Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork and Queen’s University Belfast.
- Bachelor of Dental Science BDS (U.C.C.)
- Bachelor of Dental Science B.A., B.Dent. Sc. (TCD)
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not a requirement.
Specific entry requirements
Dentistry is unsuited to those with serious sight problems and requires good psychomotor co-ordination. There may be a requirement to be immunised against Hepatitis B before being accepted on a training course.
Degree programmes all include clinical placements.
Skills and qualities
- Committed to continued learning, to stay at the forefront of the dental industry.
- Ability to create a welcoming atmosphere and put people at ease.
- Ability to encourage patients to develop good preventative care habits.
- Ability to quickly identify problems and determine effective treatments.
- Good manual dexterity to perform intricate procedures with ease for extended periods of time.
- Understanding of latest innovations in dental technology.