An Unexpected Start to a Dental Career; A young dentist’s reflection on her first year

Many young dentists across the UK are completing their first full year in practice as GDPs this month, but nobody would have predicted quite what a year they were signing up for. Laura Johnson is one such dentist who joined {my}dentist in Chester last September, after completing her foundation year. Here, she explains what it has been like joining {my}dentist, working through the pandemic in a urgent dental care centre (UDC), and how she predicts Covid-19 might change the future of dentistry for those now beginning their careers.

What initially attracted you to work for {my}dentist?

After completing foundation training I was worried that I might be seen and treated like a young and inexperienced practitioner. However it was {my}dentist’s approach to helping recently graduated dentists that really made me look into working for a large organisation – the support and flexibility that they offered was so reassuring.

What kind of support is available for young dentists?

The support has been incredible. Before I started seeing patients, I had a discussion with the practice manager about achievable UDA targets hat I felt were achievable and appointment times so that I did not feel overwhelmed. This put my mind at ease that I would not be running behind on my first day! Aside from the continuous support within the practice, I have had visits from our clinical support manager- a clinician who you can go to with any treatment planning or patient based questions.  The {my}dentist Academy based in Manchester has been an invaluable tool in supporting my transition into an associate. Plus, from the foundation dentist induction weekend to the clinical conference which took place in Liverpool, the chance to meet other newly qualified dentists and network has been fantastic.It has surprised me how personal working for {my}dentist feels – It feels more like a family than a large organisation. They really care about your opinion on how they are doing and want to improve in any way they can.

How did your role change as a result of Covid-19?

My practice in Chester opened up as a cold site UDC- so this means saw patients with no symptoms of Covid-19. We continued to triage patients over the phone using the AAA approach- antibiotics, advice and analgesia. However, if we felt that patients required urgent treatment, we could bring them in for extraction and non-AGP procedures.

Were you nervous about continuing to see patients face-to-face?

Like most, I was nervous about the uncertainty of coronavirus and the risk that seeing patients was putting on myself and my colleagues. However, before we opened up as a UDC, I attended a day at Liverpool Dental Hospital which was the ‘hot site’ for urgent treatments. Using their tried and tested protocols I felt much more at ease.

What have been the most challenging aspects of dentistry during the pandemic?

I found that managing patients’ frustrations and concerns was extremely difficult. As clinicians we are used to dealing with patients’ pain effectively and efficiently, and not to mention face to face. However, explaining to patients who were in pain that we could not complete their root canals or provide fillings was really hard. Thankfully, the majority of patients were understanding and didn’t want to leave the house anyway!I think also adapting to a completely new system of working was tough; For example, getting used to the new PPE which was warm, uncomfortable and could restrict access. As a team we had to be more organised than ever.

Based on your experiences, how do you think COVID-19 will change the future of dentistry?

As with most things coronavirus related- I don’t think anyone truly knows! I worry about the future of NHS dentistry and how this will impact on patients’ access to basic oral health care. I would love to say that Covid-19 would have little impact long term and that we could go back to normal soon, but I doubt this. I imagine cross infection protocols will be much more strict for a long time to come, and the number of patients that can be seen a day for what should be routine procedures such as fillings will drop dramatically. How the UDA system will continue to work I do not know, and I think there may be big changes coming.

How do you think it has changed your expectations of a career in dentistry?

I think it has really made me realise that nothing is certain! Covid-19 has made me think that as a profession we must be accepting of change and willing to adapt to the new normal. I think that anyone considering a career in dentistry should not just imagine their name on a practice door doing the same thing day in day out- during this pandemic I have had friends and colleagues that have been redeployed to hospitals and ICU’s to help out medical professionals. So nothing is ever certain!

What are your long term career aims?

I have always had a passion for working with anxious patients and children, and I would love to consider training in sedation one day. I would also love to find ways to work more closely with schools and care homes in the community to ensure the messages are getting out about the importance of oral health. What the future holds is uncertain, but I can honestly say I have already loved my year of being a GDP!

To find out more about career opportunities for young dentists visit or contact Rosa O’Byrne on 07725 620046 or email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.