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The Yellow Brick Road from Finals to Foundation Training

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The Yellow Brick Road from Finals to Foundation Training

Satnam graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2015 with honours and a clinical distinction in dentistry. She then went on to successfully complete her foundation training in the West Midlands.

Currently Satnam is working as a senior house officer in oral maxillofacial surgery at Northwick Park Hospital in London. She would like to share her experience of the transition from final year dental student to a foundation dentist.


The moment I found out that I had passed my final year exams was a bit of a blur. There was a feeling of excitement but overwhelmingly a sense of relief. The huge achievement of getting through the five years of dental school finally dawned on me. To add to my sheer delight, the entire year had passed as one of the famous ‘white glove’ years of Birmingham Dental School. That feeling of knowing we had all made it and would be graduating together is difficult to express in words.

As soon as I had passed I just wanted to forget dentistry for a little while and enjoy my summer. This is hardly surprising when you consider the gruelling long months of revision we endured in the run up to finals. I recommend any graduating final year student to make the most of their summer as you soon realise once working life commences that it is quite rare and valuable to get as much time off like that again.


If not already done, you will soon have the meet and greets with your scheme practices. I found it very useful to visit as many of the practices as possible prior to this date. It helps expand your decision-making process beyond basis of geographical location and word of mouth. However, it is important not to get hung up by the fancy surgeries and shiny new equipment of some of these practices. These are incentives to choosing certain work places but they should not be the only consideration in the ranking process.

Use the opportunity at the meet and greet to get to know each trainer, their approach and work ethic. As my training programme director described it, it’s like speed dating with limited time to gather your information and form your opinions. My ranking was heavily influenced by on how well I got on with the trainers on the day. Remember, just as you form your opinions of them, the trainers also gather a picture about you so it may not be the best time to ask about the practice policy for taking time off work!

Finally, once all the tedious paper work is completed you will be officially paired up with your training practice for the year. Things start feeling a lot more real too at this stage!


It’s okay to make mistakes!

Firstly, if you are anything like me, you would have been outside the dental loop and that mentality of thinking like a dentist for a few months prior to starting foundation training. You will feel a little rusty and at the same time you’ll be adjusting to a new environment, computer software and dental team. Allow those more experienced to guide you. If you’re not sure just ask! It always a good idea to brush up on the basics of exam taking and treatment planning before you begin work. Take any prompts, books or posters into work to refer to during clinical work time, it really helps!

Make the most out of your allocated tutorial slots during the working week

You have a lot of control over what you would like to cover during this protected teaching time with your trainer so ensure it benefits you! I found it useful to organise different formatted tutorials. This included discussing journals, guidelines and other academia to enhance and update my knowledge of dentistry as well as clinical, patient-based tutorials where my trainer would observe and assist me perform procedures I wanted to improve my confidence with.

If you have no patients booked in, watch the other dentists at work

Even if it seems like no one is doing any complex treatment even just sitting in on a colleague’s new patient examination can provide a lot more insight than you think.

Enjoy your study days

Peer support is crucial and you’ll be surrounded with people in the same situation as you. Once you start discussing your work you’ll be relieved to discover that everyone is making those similar mistakes and coming across different challenges. Always reflect and learn together, you’ll pick up a lot of tips along the way by doing this!

Don’t feel afraid to question things

This is your training year you’re fresh from dental school and still learning and you will continue learning even after this year, as that is the nature of the profession. Don’t feel pressured into doing things in a particular manner or taking shortcuts especially if you don’t agree with them. Everyone has their own approach and this training year is about trying to discover more about your interests and how you wish to develop yourself and career.

Buy a pair of loupes

It will be one of the best investments you make in your dental career and you will wonder how you ever did root canal treatment without it! If you haven’t already bought loupes at this stage don’t rush into buying any pair of loupes, spend time looking into it and get in contact with different company representatives. Don’t be put off by the prices as this will be a long-term investment but usually there are a lot of good deals on offer for foundation dentists.

Satnam Kaur

SHO Oral Maxillofacial Surgery




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