Whether you are considering career options or just curious I thought it might be interesting to talk about the differences and similarities between dentistry and medicine and the life of its practitioners. Or in other words, what is it like being a doctor vs being a dentist?

As you might expect, the two fields are similar and at times strikingly different, certainly though the two careers do appeal to similar groups of people.

How To Start A Career

Both fields require a lot of training, although becoming a doctor can take around 10 years or more all in all, which includes a medical degree (5 years), 2 foundation years and then speciality training which can take 3 to 8 years.

Becoming a dentist on the other hand only takes 5 years if you have the right A-levels and if you already have a degree you may be able to do an accelerated 4 year dentistry degree.

State Of The Industries

Both fields have a complicated make-up, with a large portion of practice existing with the NHS and a growing portion of private practice operating outside of the NHS. This is partly due to the growing popularity of private medical insurance which can also include dental cover.

For doctors, this is made even more complicated by the fact that many doctors choose to work both within the NHS and in private practice, and often do so from the same hospital.

Dentistry on the other hand also has its complications. There are of course NHS dentists and private practices, and many health insurance policies will include some cover for private dental if needed.

But unlike medical, dental work isn’t fully covered by the NHS even when you go to an NHS dentist. It is only subsidised, such that depending on the work you have done you will have to pay either £18.80, £51.30 or £222.50.

Problems In Dentistry

Many dentists have complained that this pay scale is too simplistic as the money they receive for example is the same whether they are performing a single filling or half a dozen. And equally, any follow up work within 2 months is covered under the same bill.

This has lead to many dentists choosing to leave the NHS and become private practices, or indeed deciding to operate partly as NHS and partly as private. This is a similar situation to that of doctors who go private, although it must be said that in the case of dentistry it has lead to the point where a substantial portion of the public do not have an NHS dentist and cannot find one.

A huge proportion of dentists believe that working under NHS rules and targets harms treatment given and is bad for the industry.

Problems In Medicine

Similarly, many GPs are reporting that NHS rationing is causing a marked increase in the number of patients who are enquiring about private options. This is perhaps due in part to more and more people having access to private health insurance, but is also a symptom of long waiting times on the NHS and even a lack of available treatment options.

A large part of the problem is reportedly that the NHS has raised the threshold at which certain treatments are considered necessary, resulting in patients often having to self-fund operations such as the removal of cataracts where the NHS doesn’t consider them severe enough to be a problem.

Lifestyle & Job Satisfaction

While both fields have their issues, a large part of the appeal of both as a career is the sense of job satisfaction and the other rewards that come with these demanding professions. So which makes the best career?

Well that’s a very personal decision and it depends exactly what you want from your career. Both dentists and doctors have the potential to earn a good salary and both jobs are fairly rewarding.

You may think that being a doctor would be the most rewarding path, as many do, but many doctors report is as also being a very demanding job, and if you value your down time, dentistry might offer the better work-life balance.

Ultimately, chances are that both medicine and dentistry will continue to have their share of problems; from funding to new legislation and changing technology, so whatever you choose you can look forward an exciting and rewarding career.

Jack Birch has extensive experience as a personal finance consultant. He specialises in health insurance issues and his articles mainly appear on senior money and health blogs.

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