Life after dental school: what happens now?

Final year dental student, Joey Brett, reflects on his experience at Bristol and his hopes for foundation training.

What made you decide to become a dentist?

I always wanted to do something that involved sciences, manual dexterity, creativity and working with people, but I was initially torn between dentistry and medicine. I chose dentistry because I felt it gives you the opportunity to work more closely with patients.

What challenges have you overcome to achieve your goal?

I started thinking about a career in dentistry when I was already in the lower sixth, so I needed to change my A-levels about half-way through the year and that meant catching up on a lot of work.

As I didn't have the right A-levels to start with, I applied through the Gateway to Dentistry programme and Bristol offered me a place. It was a bit tricky, but I got there with the support of my family and the people at my sixth form.

What have you enjoyed most about being at dental school?

It's quite challenging when you start doing hands-on dentistry for the first time but if you're struggling with a procedure, there are plenty of opportunities to build your experience and skills.

Bristol has just opened a new dental school and it's been great to have the chance to use these modern clinical facilities in my final year.

What did you expect from your final year?

Alongside support from our tutors, we also had the chance to shadow dental students in the years above, so they gave us a good idea of what to expect by this point, and now younger students are looking to us to do the same.

Bristol's student mentoring scheme pairs students in years three, four and five with someone in the years below. Last year, I actually worked with a student who was starting year one after completing the gateway course. As I'd been in their situation myself, I was able to advise them about the areas they needed to focus on so they'd find it easier to make the step up to the BDS course.

How did you find the Situational Judgement Test (SJT)?

I spent summer and first few weeks of my final year preparing for the SJT in November. A few questions were a bit tricky because you have to think about the ethical principles involved and also take into account what happens in real life practice. However, if you've prepared, use common sense and have a good understanding of professional ethics, you should do well.

What do you hope to get from foundation training?

The dental school has arranged talks for us and invited former students to return and tell us about their experiences. It's definitely helpful to get their point of view, but I'm looking forward to getting out there and finding out for myself.

I really need that experience as a foundation trainee (FT) to help me decide what I want to do in my career as I'm not sure at the moment. I'll spend my first year in general practice but I'm also interested in doing a hospital placement to get experience in oral and maxillofacial surgery. People say it's a stressful but rewarding specialty, and if they speak so highly of it, I'd like to see for myself.

What would you ask a foundation trainee if you had the chance?

I'd like to know what NHS dentistry is like from someone on the inside, as there is so much talk about how things are going downhill. I'd also like to get an FT perspective on the pathways for dental jobs in different parts of the country, in addition to what's on the Oriel and BDA websites.

How excited are you and your fellow students about life after dental school?

It's a mix of excitement and nervousness, I think. Quite a few people on the course have family who are dentists or work in healthcare and can guide them through. A few already know they want to specialise in orthodontics or cosmetic dentistry. Others, like me, are figuring things out one step at a time.

This page was correct at publication on 26/01/2024. 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.

Photo of Joey Brett Dental student at Bristol

by Joey Brett

Joey Brett is a final year dental student studying at the University of Bristol.