Adjusting to life in dental school

Guidance and advice on starting life in dental school and how the DDU can help you.

Starting life in dental school is an exciting time, but may also be a daunting one.

Even if you aren’t a fresher anymore, you’ll probably be faced with new challenges when you start the new academic year, from getting to grips with your course to more practical stuff like your accommodation, spending, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

The latest UCAS Student Lifestyle Report reveals that most new students are thoroughly enjoying their campus experience, but there were some bumps in the road. For example, 79% had concerns about their finances and meeting new people was a worry for 34% of respondents.

While it’s likely that most of you will make the transition to life as a dental student and thrive, there’s always support out there for anyone who needs a hand, including from your dental defence organisation, the DDU.

For DDU members

We’re best known for providing expert dento-legal guidance and educational support but the benefits for DDU members goes further. As part of your student membership, you can get access to free confidential advice, support and information about any issue that’s causing you sleepless nights, from finances and looming exams to family and relationships.

Delivered by Health Assured1 you can call upon a team of trained advisers and mental health nurses 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Talk to experts from a range of ethnic, cultural and disciplinary backgrounds who work within the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy's ethical framework.

In addition to the helpline, you can also access a virtual library of guides and webinars on the Health Assured Wellbeing portal or download the My Healthy Advantage app tools to help you manage your own physical and mental health.

Log into My membership to get the contact details, access codes and passwords.

Local sources of help

At every dental school there will be plenty of friendly and supportive people around you ready to talk or lend a hand.

Older students on your course, for example, are often voices of experience who can share useful practical tips and reassurance. If it’s not something you feel able to discuss with your peers, you can also make an appointment with your personal tutor if you have one or contact Student Services at your university who can provide information and point you in the right direction.

Outside dental school, it’s important to register with a GP if you’re living away from home about any health concerns, especially if you think it’s beginning to affect your performance. And while you might be getting used to life away from home, it’s still a good idea to keep in touch with those who know you best. A familiar voice might be just what you need to hear sometimes.

National resources

This is not an exhaustive list, but these national organisations below can provide help and support to dental students and young people in general. 

ConfiDental – A volunteer-run helpline offering emotional first aid for dental professionals and dental students in distress.

BDA Benevolent Fund – Emotional and financial support to dental students, dentists and their dependants in the UK.

Wellbeing support for the dental team – Open to students and other members of the dental team.

Student Minds – A national student mental health charity, which runs Student Space online resource hub.

Citizens Advice – Provides advice on areas like money, student accommodation, education and health. You can use the national service or visit your local branch.

Nightline Association – Out-of-hours listening and information services for students.

Mind – A mental health charity in England and Wales with a dedicated section for students on its website.

Think Positive – funded by the Scottish government, a collaboration project between the student’s association and college/university.

Scottish Association for Mental Health – Scotland's national mental health charity, with advice and resources on looking after yourself, suicide prevention, workplace wellbeing and more.

Samaritans – A charity dedicated to reducing feelings of isolation and disconnection that can lead to suicide. Open 24 hours a day.

Narcotics Anonymous – A non-profit fellowship or society of people for whom drugs have become a major problem.

Alcoholics Anonymous – A fellowship concerned with the personal recovery and continued sobriety of individual alcoholics who turn to the fellowship for help.

1. Provided by Health Assured, part of the Peninsula Group. Peninsula is the leading provider of employment law and health and safety services in the UK. Health Assured is the UK’s leading Employee Assistance Programme provider.

This page was correct at publication on 23/11/2023. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

Leo Briggs deputy head of the DDU

by Leo Briggs Deputy head of the DDU

Leo Briggs qualified from University College Hospital, London, in 1989. He has worked extensively in the community dental service including a brief period overseas. He has also worked in general dental practice.

Leo gained a masters degree in periodontology from the Eastman in 1995 and is on the GDC specialist register for periodontics. From 1995-2017 he provided specialist periodontal treatment in both the salaried dental services and private practice. He started working for the DDU in 2005. Between 2007 and 2009 he worked part time at the DDU and part time as a clinical tutor at the School for Professionals Complementary to Dentistry in Portsmouth. In 2009 Leo went full time with the DDU. In January 2016 he became deputy head of the DDU.