New graduates warned over top four professional pitfalls


For immediate release: Tuesday, 31 July 2012

All dental graduates are urged to familiarise themselves with the role of the GDC before they commence clinical practice.

UK-wide dental defence organisation MDDUS has pinpointed the top four ways in which new dentists are likely to get into professional difficulties.

An outline of GDC procedures and regulations now form part of the teaching curriculum in most if not all UK dental schools. However, MDDUS dental adviser Doug Hamilton believes it can be difficult for undergraduates to fully appreciate the rigour with which these rules are applied.

“Being brought to the attention of the GDC is always very stressful, but can be particularly upsetting if it occurs near the outset of a career,” says Hamilton. “All graduates should be familiar with the comprehensive and accessible guidance documents which are published by the GDC.”

While the scope of these rules is far-reaching, there are certain requirements which are particularly applicable to those who have recently graduated and which are therefore worth highlighting at this time of year.

“Firstly, it is essential that all dentists are registered with the GDC before starting work in the UK,” adds Hamilton. “In order to receive a registration number by July 31, applications should have been submitted to the GDC by May 18. Those who have failed to do so may find that the commencement of their training is delayed.”

Registration is renewable annually by January 1 through payment of a retention fee and MDDUS is contacted by members each year who have forgotten to pay this fee and are therefore not registered.

“If a non-registrant has carried out clinical work, then they must cease until the application form and registration fee (which covers the applicant until the end of the first registration year) have been accepted,” says Hamilton. “Completion of this process may necessitate the submission of a written explanation as to why the dentist was practising without being registered.

“Secondly, the GDC require that all registrants are properly indemnified against claims of clinical negligence so that patients are able to claim compensation to which they may be entitled. As a member of MDDUS, you will also be provided with expert dento-legal advice, assistance with complaints and representation at GDC proceedings.

“Thirdly, graduates must work within the scope of their knowledge and professional competence. As the first stages of vocational training are completed, the degree of supervision can moderate. While this new found clinical independence is a necessary step in the learning curve, it can lead to problems.

“Either through over-confidence, a sense of obligation or patient pressure, trainees may embark upon procedures for which they are not ready. The results can be catastrophic for a patient’s dental health and the dentist’s professional status. Therefore, less experienced dentists must recognise their limitations and be prepared to seek assistance from colleagues where necessary.”

Finally, the GDC require registrants to maintain appropriate standards of professional behaviour, not only in the clinical setting, but in all walks of life.

“Being free of studies and having a source of income can be a fairly intoxicating cocktail,” says Hamilton. “In fact, many an unwise action by an exuberant graduate has been attributed to intoxicating cocktails. Joking aside, the line between high spirits and, for example, a breach of the peace can be very fine.

“Any registrant who is convicted of a criminal offence, even if the resulting censure is limited to an admonishment, should self-refer to the GDC immediately so that the matter can be considered by an Investigating Committee. The GDC does not confine itself to the regulation of clinical activities. Conduct in all circumstances must justify the public’s trust in the dental profession.”

Admittedly, this list of GDC regulations, which is by no means exhaustive, is just as applicable to experienced dentists as it is to younger practitioners.

“Over the course of a dentist’s career they will acquire an understanding of the role of the GDC, through attendance at relevant courses, reading GDC updates or, in some unfortunate cases, through first-hand experience,” adds Hamilton.

“New graduates have yet to embark upon this process of information gathering and may underestimate the scope and rigour of the GDC regulations. Therefore, before taking up their first post, MDDUS would encourage new members to read and carefully reflect upon all of the obligations which have been published by the GDC.”

MDDUS is on hand 24 hours a day to provide advice and support to any new members who have concerns regarding GDC regulations.


For further information contact Richard Hendry on 0845 270 2034 or 07976 272266, or email

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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