Having spent one year in foundation training and another as a dental associate, I embarked on a year as a dental core trainee. Prior to starting my DCT year, I remember everyone telling me that I should 'make the most of it.' Great advice, but I had no idea what that really meant.

Nevertheless, I undertook a multi-disciplinary DCT post in three different sites within Surrey and south-west London. I am delighted to report that this was one of my most challenging yet rewarding experiences to date.

Stay SMART

During my induction, one of the previous DCT's recommended I create SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) as part of my personal development plan. The advice was a masterstroke. Senior colleagues involved in my training were aware of what I wanted to achieve and offered ways they could help. They were all impressed by how keen I appeared and this first impression carried weight as the year progressed.

Working in the hospital environment was a real shock to the system. At the beginning, there were days when I remember not even having a chance to sit down and often had no lunch as I had been dictating letters. Ensuring I was organised was crucial to succeeding in this post.

For the first month, I primarily observed my colleagues, who frequently quizzed me in front of the patient regarding the diagnosis and treatment plan. Throughout the year, I tried to encourage a debrief after each session with my supervising clinician, which not only encouraged open communication, but also provided an opportunity to discuss areas of improvement.

Based on my knowledge gaps, I conducted research which I presented in the following session, demonstrating a willingness to learn. This in turn helped to build trust and respect which ensured I was able to assess and treat patients sooner in my core training year.

Changes and challenges

As my DCT post progressed, I was exposed to more challenging situations. I was continually supported to step out of my comfort zone and undertake new techniques and treatment procedures. One notable example was when I performed my first crown lengthening procedure. This was under the direct supervision of a restorative consultant, who was very patient and guided me to completion, sharing great tips along the way.

Over the course of the year, I was able to develop proficiency in orthograde endodontic retreatment under magnification, administration of inhalation sedation to children and in hard and soft tissue surgery.

In addition to clinical work, I completed audits, research projects and presented at journal club meetings. Journal club was a fantastic opportunity to discuss papers or clinical cases within the team. I completed an audit that assessed the patient related outcome and experience measures of paediatric patients attending for general anaesthesia. The results showed a child's anxiety toward dental treatment does not improve as a result of the GA intervention. My hope is that the findings would encourage future research into addressing this issue.

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Undertaking research, and audits in particular, shows ambition for further academic study. This in turn would improve the likelihood of successfully enrolling onto competitive training courses should you wish to do so in the future.

On occasion, junior doctors referred patients to the dental team with an uncertain diagnoses and I was fortunate to be able to advise and educate them regarding oral conditions such as dental plaque, thrush and different oral malignancies.

Although initially difficult because of the questions I was being asked, it offered great insight into gaps in my own knowledge and was a fantastic opportunity for me to build on my teaching skills.

Social work

Aside from clinical and academic work, the hospital offered me a great social environment to network with colleagues and make some great friends, who I hope to remain close with and work with again in the future.

My DCT year was a great opportunity to continue progressing in my career, both clinically and academically. Having achieved the objectives that I had set at the start of the year, I have now returned to general practice with more confidence and self-assurance as a clinician. My next journey awaits…


This article was correct at publication on 21/09/2017. It 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.

Chirag Mehta

Chirag graduated from Cardiff Dental School in 2014. Having completed his foundation training (DF1) in the Kent, Surrey and Sussex (KSS) Dental Deanery, he went on to work for a year in Harold Wood, Essex as a Dental Associate. At present, Chirag works as a year 1 dental core trainee in the Surrey and Sussex NHS Healthcare Trust.

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