Most dentists work as general dental practitioners usually in a town or city practice providing dental care to the public. Many practices offer both NHS and private care although private only practices are becoming greater in number. Skill mix within practices is increasing, with dental therapists and hygienists playing a greater role in patient care. This can often allow a dentist to develop a special interest within the practice.

Dentists focus on all aspects of oral health and work to prevent and treat dental and oral disease. Common treatments may include examinations, oral cancer screening, fillings, extraction of teeth, root fillings and crowns. Dentists also correct dental irregularities using orthodontic appliances and treat dental or facial injuries.

The provision of dental and oral health care is not confined to dental practices, with special care services provided by the community dental services and more complex treatment involving consultant advice, provided by the hospital service.

Dental decay and gum disease are diseases which are preventable and the challenge ahead lies in how we can move from a reparative service to one of prevention. Education, diet advice and targeting areas where decay rates are high, is where the focus is at present. Supervised tooth brushing in schools and fluoridation of water supplies are proven ways to reduce dental decay.

As our population ages, people are keeping most of their teeth for life. This is a fundamental change to how things have been in the past. Patient needs can become more complex, and this brings challenges to the profession.