There are 13 dental specialities recognized by the General Dental Council (GDC):
- Oral Surgery
- Paediatric Dentistry
- Restorative Dentistry
- Oral Medicine
- Special Care Dentistry
- Dental Public Health
- Oral Microbiology
- Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
- Dental and Maxillofacial Radiology
Registered General Dental Practitioners (GDPs) can practice dentistry in any of the specialities, i.e. a GDP can carry out endodontic treatment or carry out treatment on children; however dentists can only call themselves a specialist in one of these particular fields of dentistry if they meet the minimum required standards of training as set by the GDC. The main purpose of the speciality list is to protect the public from misleading claims of a dentist; a specialist in a certain field of dentistry must have a certain minimum standards of training and expertise in that particular speciality, and all consultants must be on the speciality list.
To become recognised as a specialist, trainees must undergo a training pathway which involves many years of training and examinations.
All dentists will have first successfully completed five years of undergraduate training and awarded a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS or BChD) to be registered with the GDC, which allows them to practice dentistry in the UK.
A minimum of two years of postgraduate general professional training (GPT) is essential. This normally involves vocational training (VT), senior house officer (SHO), house officer (HO) and/or community dental service (CDS) positions.
In most specialities, the Diploma of Membership of the Faculty of Dental Surgery (MFDS) or equivalent is required or at least highly recommended. Other entry qualifications may also be required.
Trainees must then undergo specialist training on a Specialist Advisory Committee (SAC) approved programme. This is usually a minimum of three years for most specialities, but can be up to four or five years for others. During this time, trainees will often work as specialist registrars (SpR) in the hospital setting, whilst continuing their postgraduate academic study in a university.
On successful completion of training and examinations, trainees will be awarded either a Speciality Membership or an Intercollegiate Fellowship with the Royal Colleges of Surgeons. Candidates can then apply for the Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training (CCST), which is essential to be placed on the General Dental Council's specialist list.
Specialists may then either work in a specialist practice, the community dental service, or hospital service. With some specialities, the CCST lead directly to a consultant appointment, and sometimes additional training is necessary.
In some cases, a dental practitioner may be known as a Dentist with a Special Interest (DwSI). These dentists can offer a wider range of treatments in addition to their normal general dental treatments, including some that were traditionally only offered in the hospital setting. They serve to reduce waiting times for specialist services and provide more convenient treatment for patients in a local setting. DWSIs are appropriately trained practitioners who have developed skills and knowledge in their particular field of interest over a period of time through additional qualifications and practical experience. Patients may be referred to DWSIs for treatments such as those diseases or infections involving the root of the tooth or the gums; the treatment provided by a DWSI should be of same standard as a consultant. However, DWSIs do not replace specialists and consultants, and do not have the same range of clinical services as specialists or consultants, and will refer patients to a specialist when necessary.