Chances are, the exposure you’ve had to a career in dentistry is based on the experiences you’ve had when you’ve visited the dentist. Or perhaps you know someone who works in dentistry and have discussed it as a career with them? Either way, the single best way to decide if a career in dentistry is for you is to complete some dentistry work experience. Application tutors also want to see that you understand what a career in dentistry involves and the skills required.
This guide will give you all the information you need to secure a work experience placement.
Often your school may have set periods within the term to complete your work experience. However, it is best to start as early as possible in finding a work experience placement. Dentistry placements are often competitive and highly sought after so it is best to organise your placement early.
Start with speaking to your school to discover whether any previous students have completed a dentistry work experience placement. You could also contact local dental practices, NHS dental hospitals, private practices or dental laboratories. Send them a formal letter introducing yourself, why you are interested in dentistry and when you would like to complete your work experience along with your contact details.
It is best to follow up a letter with a phone call around a week or two later if you have not heard anything back. Don’t be put off if you are not successful, just move forward and contact more institutions. It is also worth asking around and using personal contacts where possible.
So, how much work experience should you seek to get for dentistry? The majority of dental schools look for two weeks of relevant work experience, however, the more experience you have the better.
Try and get work experience in a range of dental settings as this will give you a more comprehensive views as to which avenues you can take in dentistry. It is important to maximise your work experience and reflect on what you have seen a learnt.
Keep a personal portfolio to document your experiences. Reflect on these in your personal statement and at interview.
Don’t panic if you can’t secure a work experience placement that directly relates to dentistry as you won’t be alone in this. If you find yourself in this position then look for alternative placements in the healthcare profession that use similar skills to dentistry. You can volunteer in a healthcare setting, get involved with a local charity focusing on oral health or set up a project in your school relating to dentistry. Application assessors will look at these as an indication that you are motivated to study dentistry.
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