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Perceptions of a Dental Career Among Successful Applicants for Dentistry Compared With Those of Fifth-Year Dental Students

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Purpose of the study: A focused and vocational university programme such as dentistry may limit the opportunities for graduates who find that clinical dentistry is not for them. It is important that those advising and recruiting people into the profession should ascertain whether applicants have a realistic idea of what lies ahead.

Basic procedures: On the presumption that final-year undergraduate students have acquired a more realistic impression of the profession than potential entrants, it was of interest to investigate possible differences in the perceptions of dentistry between the two groups. The perceptions of dentistry have been categorised and compared by anonymous questionnaire between final-year dental students (n=79) and successful undergraduate applicants (n=109) at the same institution in the United Kingdom. The overall response rate was 100% in both cases.

Main findings: It is clear that both groups are concerned with personal and professional matters followed by career opportunities and financial matters, respectively. Health matters pose the least concern. However a number of significant differences have emerged. Significantly fewer students (p=0.001) considered the dental career as a positive contribution to society. A greater proportion of applicants considered the study of mathematics at school to be useful (p=0.001). Significantly more applicants valued technical and manual skills as contributing to a 'good' dentist (p=0.001). More students mentioned occupational flexibility, security and independence as a positive aspect of a career (p=0.001); however students identified more job stresses in dentistry (p=0.001).

Principal conclusion: Applicants appeared to have a more 'idealistic' view of dentistry than the senior students, however similarities between the responses of students and applicants are encouraging for the future of the profession.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2002

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  • Primary Dental Care is the research journal of the Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK), and the only peer-reviewed journal dedicated wholly to research in primary care dentistry. The aim of the journal is to promote academic and research aspects of primary dental care by publishing relevant peer-reviewed papers. In addition, reviews, reports of clinical cases, book reviews, opinions, summaries and abstracts of scientific meetings and news items are included.
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