Life as a foundation dentist…during a pandemic

Published: Posted on

This guest blog is written by Roop Bhamra, a recent alumna of the School of Dentistry at the University of Birmingham.

Hi everyone, my name is Roop Bhamra and I graduated from the University of Birmingham’s Dentistry programme in July 2020. The end of our studies and transition to working life has been far from normal due to the pandemic, but I thought it may be interesting to shed some light on what life is like after graduating from Dentistry.

The initial relief of finding out you’ve passed this degree is unmatched. The countless hours spent revising for exams and preparing for clinics whilst trying to juggle a normal student life have finally paid off! But it was also daunting knowing that we were now ‘real’ dentists and expected to treat patients on our own with minimal supervision. The fact that we had to leave University in March and missed out on the last 5 months of treating patients also added to this. However, I found out that there wasn’t a need to be so worried, as it is ensured that newly qualified dentists get lots of support when starting their new jobs.

After graduating from Dentistry, the majority of students will opt to undertake one year of ‘Foundation training’ which is a year of employment under the NHS with a set salary and placement in a ‘Training Practice’. This practice will have an allocated dentist to be your ‘Educational Supervisor’; they look after you for the year and help you make the transition from being a safe beginner to and independent practitioner.

Seeing my first patient was a nerve wracking experience. It was now September and the last time I had seen a patient was in March. Had I forgotten everything? Was I going to remember to ask all the right questions? Was I actually going to be able to help my patient? When seeing patients at university, we were all very comforted by the fact that everything we did was double checked by the supervisors on clinic. Being independently in charge of a patient was new territory. Thankfully, everything we learned during our time at dental school came flowing back to me and I am now much more in the swing of seeing patients again. If there is ever a time that I am a little uncertain of the diagnosis or treatment options, my educational supervisor is always willing to come in to assist me. That’s what they’re there for!

I was initially anxious about time management and the volume of patients we would be expected to see; we had only ever seen a maximum of four patients a day during the degree, so the thought of having to see 20 patients a day seemed very farfetched. However, training practices are very supportive and will slowly build up the number of patients you are seeing. Due to the current pandemic we are restricted as to the number of patients that can be in the building at once, so are not seeing as many patients as in the past.

We have weekly Study Days– these break up the week nicely and are run by a dentist (the ‘Training Programme Director’) who is in charge of the all educational supervisors local to your practice. The topics range from communication and time management to refreshers on clinical topics. Usually, you will get to meet the other foundation dentists on your scheme for a study day in person, but at the moment ours are on Zoom. Luckily, we managed to have some days in person for the ‘hands-on days’. These are the days you get to use ‘phantom heads’ which are effectively model people with plastic teeth that you can practice certain procedures on.

There are also a few assignments, audits, and reflective logs you will have to write as part of the foundation year, but on the whole the work load is a lot less than the workload as a student. It’s very refreshing and rewarding to put all the knowledge and practice you’ve attained over the last 5 years to good use, and actually be a ‘real’ dentist.

Normally, there are many social events to look forward to during your foundation year, with trips to conferences, meals out with other foundation dentists and Balls at the end of the year. Although my cohort of foundation dentists haven’t been able to do as much, hopefully we will get to enjoy more of these events further into 2021.

For anyone reading this and wondering what life is like after studying Dentistry – you aren’t just thrown into the real word alone. There is so much support in place to help you transition, both within and outside your practice. The staff at this university don’t just forget you after you graduate – they are more than happy to respond to emails and are even contactable on social media if you need help with anything.

So far, I am really enjoying my first year of work and am in a supportive environment that will enable me to develop as a dentist. My time at university was a lot of hard work, but I also had opportunities to get involved in various fun activities like dance competitions and being on the committee of the dental student society. I do highly recommend this course and as long as you are willing to put in the time you will reap the rewards.

A huge thanks to Roop for all the time and effort she put into putting this blog together.

If you’re interested in a career in dentistry look out for our upcoming Year 12 Dental Applications Conference which will be running in February 2021. Follow our social media below for updates.

MDS Outreach can be found using the following links:
Twitter: @UoB_MDSOutreach
Instagram: @uob_mdsoutreach

For more information about Birmingham Widening Access to the Medical Sciences (BWAMS) activities and support follow these links:

You Tube:
Twitter: @BWAMSbirmingham and @we_are_medics
Instagram: @bwamsbirmingham and @wearemedics


Author: Clare Ray

Clare Ray is the College of Medical and Dental Sciences lead for Outreach and Widening Participation.