Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the The University of Sheffield's online course, Discover Dentistry. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsMy name's Helen Rodd, and I'm a Professor and Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry. Paediatric Dentistry is a specialty which involves looking after children, their oral health care from birth right through to 16 years. And as it's a specialist area, we only see children that are referred with particular medical problems, such as childhood cancer or haemophilia. Or maybe they have behavioural problems, autism, severe dental anxiety. Or they might have particular dental problems that their general dentist doesn't feel confident to manage, which might be children who have fallen off their bike and damaged their teeth or children who have defects of their enamel or very, very high decay rates. So a typical day for me is quite varied.

Skip to 1 minute and 1 secondI might supervise students on one session where the students are learning to treat children. And I might also treat some patients myself, and those are the more complex ones. And that might even involve providing their treatment while they're asleep under general anaesthetic at the local children's hospital. And also, as part of my daily routine, I might do some lectures for undergraduates or be involved in some research that's ongoing. To be a paediatric dentist, or a specialist in paediatric dentistry, you need to do at least three years general training, once you graduate, in practice and other settings. And then you spend three years purely treating children in a training post, which is usually in a hospital setting.

Skip to 1 minute and 50 secondsAnd after that you're considered a specialist. And then if you want to become a consultant, it's another two years training. And if you want to become an academic, like myself, then you would have to do the two years training and a Ph.D. As well. My name's Ghazala Ahmad-Mear. I'm an Associate Specialist in Oral Surgery. Oral Surgery is defined as management of diseases and surgical management of soft and hard tissues of mouth, jaws, and teeth. So it involves surgery. So it's cutting into soft tissues, working around bone and teeth and jaws. And the majority of the work-- during the day-to-day, work is really about removal of impacted teeth, problematical teeth, teeth that the local dentist cannot get out for whatever reason.

Skip to 2 minutes and 51 secondsSo a lot of it is under a local anaesthetic. Often we use sedation for patients who are anxious, and we also use general anaesthetic for cases that cannot really be done under a local. So it does take you from the dental surgery out into theatre environment. And it can be quite a dynamic post so you can move around rather than staying in one place all the time. To get there, you basically need your BDS, or equivalent qualifications. So it's a post-graduate specialty training. Initially, after BDS, all dentists these days have to do dental foundation, which is one year, and general dental practise.

Skip to 3 minutes and 32 secondsFollowing that, you need to take dental core training posts within oral surgery or oral and maxillofacial surgery within a hospital basis. And that really gives you an idea of whether this is the right thing for you. So you're exposed to a bit more than the surgery would be, perhaps, at the undergraduate level. If you make a decision to follow that career, then you need a couple of other years of dental core training under your belt. And then you apply for a specialty training post. They are relatively low numbers nationally, currently. They hope to grow, but they are very competitive. And so anything more that is extracurricular than those dental core training years that you can bring would be advantageous.

Skip to 4 minutes and 19 secondsSo you need audits in research and any other clinical experience and expertise that you can contribute. Once you get onto a training programme, it's three years to become a specialist in oral surgery. So that allows you to call yourself an oral surgeon and work independently as an oral surgeon. If you wanted to maintain a hospital career and become a consultant, then you would need a further two years. And then, once you've finished training, you would apply for consultant posts. Hi, I'm Nicholas Martin. I'm a specialist in Endodontics. Endodontics is the study of what goes on inside the tooth. And what goes on inside the tooth are diseases and the problems affecting the pulp of the tooth.

Skip to 5 minutes and 7 secondsNow, the pulp is a piece of little tissue, soft tissue, that lives right in the middle of the tooth. And that, to most people, is referred to as the nerve. Today, Endodontics has really come of age, and it's become much more sophisticated and much more predictable in its outcomes. Most dentists can actually do endodontics. Most dentists are trained to do so and will certainly know about how to look after the life of the pulp so that it doesn't become damaged when they do any form of treatment or in terms of fillings or crowns.

Skip to 5 minutes and 35 secondsThey want to make sure the pulp doesn't become inflamed, because if the pulp becomes damaged or infected, then there are significant consequences to the tooth in terms of it becomes weaker. When the treatment becomes more complicated, because the anatomy of the root-- sometimes it's a twisty little very fine root or sometimes the axis is more challenging or the infection is more persistent-- then it is referred to an endodontist. And the endodontist will look after the specialist root canal treatment, amongst other things. But the specialty is root canal treatment. So what makes an endodontist? An endodontist is a dentist. So five years of dentistry, in the United Kingdom. And beyond that is a specialist training pathway.

Skip to 6 minutes and 14 secondsSo there might be some basic general hospital training, and then approximately three or five years of further, very disciplined, hospital curriculum-based training to become an endodontal specialist. And that is how somebody like myself ended up spending a significant amount of time looking after little pulps and little teeth. I'm Sandra Zijlstra-Shaw. I coordinate the undergraduate Periodontology course, and I also teach the post-graduates Periodontology. Periodontology itself is about treating gum disease. It's one of the commonest diseases that human beings get. And what we do is not just scales and polishes and the actual mechanics to treatment, but we're actually talking about teaching the patient, helping patients, to take care of their own disease, to look after their own oral health.

Skip to 7 minutes and 3 secondsSo it's actually quite interesting and it's very patient-focused. And how do you become a periodontologist? Well, the first thing you have to do is to train to be a dentist. Then you have to go out into practise and get some practise. And then you come back and you do the specialist training, and that's usually the restorative specialist training. So you would do other things, such as crowns and bridges as well as dealing with gum disease. Once you've done that specialist training, then you can move on to do things like periodontal surgery, which is more surgery with the gums, some periodontal plastic surgery. So it becomes quite interesting at that point from a technical point of view.

Skip to 7 minutes and 39 secondsSo you've got the patient-centeredness, you've got the technical side, and all in all it's quite an interesting thing to do. My name's Phillip Benson, and I'm an orthodontist. My job title is Reader in Orthodontics Honorary-Consultant.

Skip to 7 minutes and 55 secondsOrthodontics is the specialty in dentistry that deals with crooked teeth. So we use braces to straighten the teeth and correcting malocclusion, which is anything to do with crooked teeth.

Skip to 8 minutes and 11 secondsWell, I'm quite fortunate in I have quite a varied clinical commitment. So I do quite a lot of teaching as well as seeing my own patients. I specialise in treating patients who have got missing teeth so I work quite closely with a restorative dentist with children who have got missing teeth to make it easier for the restorative dentist-- the person who supplies bridges and implants to replace the missing teeth-- to make it easier for them to include their restorations, their implants and their bridges in the mouth. It's quite a long training to become an orthodontist. You have to do five years of undergraduate dental training, and then you have to get some experience of general dentistry.

Skip to 9 minutes and 2 secondsSo I did a combination of working in a general dental practice as well as in hospital. I worked at Great Ormond Street with children who have cleft palates and quite severe problems with their head and neck. And then you have to do a three year full-time orthodontic course treating 100, 120 patients from start to finish. And then, if you want to stay in hospital or university, you have to do a Ph.D. which takes three or four years as well as further clinical training to become a consultant. Hello, my name's Paula Farthing, and I'm a Consultant Oral Pathologist in the School of Clinical Dentistry in Sheffield. Have you ever wondered how a dentist knows what's wrong with you?

Skip to 9 minutes and 48 secondsWell, what they do first of all is ask lots of questions. This is called taking a history. And they'll ask about your medical history, and that's important because sometimes a medical history will have manifestations in the mouth. And sometimes it also affects what treatment a dentist can do for you. The next thing the dentists do will ask you lots of questions about what's wrong with you, how long you've had it, what problems you're getting, and sometimes they ask you whether your parents have had anything like that or whether it's been in the family. After they've done that, then they'll examine you.

Skip to 10 minutes and 23 secondsAnd first of all, they examine you extraorally, and that means look at your face and your neck, and sometimes they'll feel it. And then they look inside your mouth, and they will examine all the soft tissues, which is the palate, the floor of your mouth, your tongue, your cheeks, and they look at your teeth as well. Now, most of the time, the dentist will know what's wrong with you just from looking and from the history that they've got. But sometimes they don't know what's wrong, and when that's the case, they have to take a bit of tissue away. And that's called a biopsy. So they usually only biopsy the soft tissues, and they hardly ever biopsy teeth.

Skip to 10 minutes and 58 secondsBut they sometimes biopsy jawbones. And that's where I come in, because I'm a pathologist. And my role, actually, is to look down the microscope and see what changes have occurred in the tissue. And I compare that to normal, and then I write a report and send it to the dentist who then knows how to treat the patient. So after they've taken the biopsy, they put it in fixative so it doesn't decompose. And they produce a slide, like this, and that's what I look at down the microscope. OK, so in able to be a pathologist, you have to do a dental degree and then do general professional training and general practice and also in the hospital in oral medicine, oral surgery.

Skip to 11 minutes and 42 secondsAnd then after that, you have to sit profession exams and then there's a five year training to become an oral pathologist. Hi, I'm Simon Northeast. I'm a Senior Clinical Teacher in Restorative Dentistry, and I work in the Academic Unit of Restorative Dentistry in Sheffield University. I've been employed by the university for a good number of years. My discipline, really, is one which integrates the disciplines of Endodontics, Periodontics, and Prosthodontics in the management of patients who require cross-treatment in these different disciplines.

Skip to 12 minutes and 18 secondsAnd it sometimes encompasses other people, such as oral surgeons and orthodontists in the management of patients who have difficult dental problems and severely compromised dentitions in particular who could not easily be managed in either general dental practise or specialist dental practise outside in the private world, if you like. The training pathway for this particular specialty is rather unique in the UK in that in most other countries, the monospecialties of Endodontics and Prosthodontics would link together to manage the treatment of these patients.

Skip to 12 minutes and 57 secondsBut this is regarded as a specialist pathway in the UK within the hospital environment, and it's quite a long training pathway involving at least a minimum of two or three years of doing general dentistry and getting higher training and higher qualifications, first of all, followed by entering a job as something like a specialist registrar working in the NHS. Although there are also training programmes in the university.

Skip to 13 minutes and 26 secondsYou can work as a lecturer and train at the same time for a period of five years for oral restorative dentistry where you would study the specialties of Endodontics, Periodontics, and Prosthodontics and how these integrate into the management of patients, for example, who have cleft palates or who've had tumours or severe trauma, born with other congenital defects, and severe problems with their teeth which gives rise to really difficult issues of management and particularly the ability to work with other teams as well.

Skip to 14 minutes and 3 secondsSo it's quite a broad spectrum, but the emphasis on the integration and on an approach which has a broad understanding of all these other disciplines and understanding of these specialties, which is why the training pathway is longer than a monospecialty of, say, doing Endodontics where you're studying the problems of root canal therapy and so on.

Meet the specialists

In this video we visited a selection of dental specialists at the University of Sheffield and asked them a few questions about their roles, and you can watch their answers.

We asked:

  1. What’s your job title?
  2. What defines your specialty?
  3. What do you do in your role in a typical day?
  4. What training did you have to complete to get the job?

This is a long video, so here are the times of when each specialist starts speaking:

  • Paediatrics - 0:08
  • Oral Surgery - 2:04
  • Endodontics - 4:51
  • Periodontics - 6:35
  • Orthodontics - 7:45
  • Oral Pathology - 9:36
  • Restorative Dentistry - 11:48

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Discover Dentistry

The University of Sheffield