This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Home UK > About to Graduate > Newly qualified > My life as a young dentist

My life as a young dentist

in Newly qualified

My life as a young dentist

Katharine graduated from Cardiff Dental School in 2002 and joined the Royal Navy as a dental officer on a five year commission. Her first year in the Navy was spent completing a foundation training year.

Katherine says “this was a fantastic year, for one week per month we met up with Royal Air Force and Army vocational trainees at various locations around the UK and Europe” Katherine has written this article to share her experience so far as a young dentist.

During my time in the Royal Navy I was lucky enough to deliver dental care to Royal Navy personnel on board ships in The Seychelles, The Gulf and Caribbean. My nurse and I, with our portable dental unit, were flown out to exotic locations to meet a ship where we would set up in the sickbay and become part of the ships’ company for a few weeks. The audience on-board ship was captive and it was our job to leave everyone on-board dentally fit. It was challenging at times when the sea was rough! The experience was rich, diverse and unique; I loved every minute of it. Clinically it provided me with confidence as timely and accurate decision making and diagnoses were imperative. You had one shot to get it right before your patient disappeared back under water on a submarine or flew off to the other side of the world with no further access to dental care.

In the main, my time in the Royal Navy was spent between the three naval shore bases of Faslane, Plymouth and Portsmouth. The forces provided a heavy emphasis on postgraduate education and we would not be considered for promotion unless we had taken our membership of the faculty of general dental practitioners examination, which I completed a year following vocational training.

After an amazing five years, when I had completed my commission, I left the Navy and joined a mixed dental practice in Devon. The transition into civilian practice was tough; I didn’t know what had hit me! We were on a fixed salary in the Navy and forces personnel do not pay for their dental care. Although we had certain dental fitness targets to meet, treatment took as long as it took. I found the pace of work and the units of dental activity system attritional and exhausting. Naval patients also had to turn up on time and always be respectful to their dentist! I was like a fish out of water. I had no experience 'selling treatment' and quickly had to learn that dentistry is a lot about compromise.

To help aid the transition I completed a Diploma in Postgraduate Dental Studies from Cardiff University. This helped to fill in the gaps where my knowledge was thin from forces dentistry, such as orthodontics and paedodontics. It was mainly distance learning which suited my busy family life with three young children. My business and communication skills however still remained sorely lacking.

It became a struggle balancing family life, practice life and further education. After a couple of years in civilian dental practice I was given the opportunity to take on a list of private dental patients within the same practice. This was another can of worms. I would have bitten someone’s hand off for a comprehensive course that embraced practical and clinical training alongside business, communication skills and mentoring. I didn’t want to feel like the only way I was learning was through my mistakes, mainly associated with miscommunication. I knew where I wanted to be confidence wise and felt frustrated and impatient. I was put off from the advanced one year restorative courses due to cost and commitment. I wanted a course that would help me to develop all round as a dental practitioner, a kind of one stop shop, not just a restorative skills course.

Due to my family commitments I was limited to what courses I could attend. It was a logistical nightmare arranging wrap around childcare for three children from the crack of dawn to commute to London just for a one day course! Any course costing this much money and effort had to be good!

I persisted, shoe horning courses in, as and when I could. Seven years on since leaving the Navy, I’m working in a fully private practice. I now feel confident talking to patients and presenting treatment options. This has come due to experience alone but I feel I could have reached this feeling of contentment and confidence sooner with appropriate training.

Family life is as manic as ever, I thrive off the chaos! I’ve recently started competing in X-Training gym competitions and train six days per week. It’s hard work but it paid off and I won my last national competition for my category. Contentment at work has helped me achieve a stable and enjoyable work life balance; it all seems to flow through. I’m delighted and excited to be involved in creating Young Dentist Academy (YDA) with Nazia and Martyn. Our team is truly unique and we have a wealth of contrasting and relevant experiences between ourselves and our visiting specialists to offer young dentists. The title of the course is Confidence, Competence and Contentment in General Dental Practice and that is exactly what we will deliver.

For further information visit

Katharine Cordner


Leave a Comment:


Login to Facebook to post your comments

Logged in as:

Logout from your Facebook account

Post comment to my Facebook profile


No comments.