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Welcome to this podcast about the trials and tribulations of vocational professionals in life science, such as dentists. Many A level biology students crave the opportunity to go on to do medicine or dentistry, fields apparently artificially limited to maintain their prestige in terms of how many students are allowed to go on and study them at uni. There’s also a heavy cultural light to these fields, where parents pass the profession down to their kids, and historically there has been a sense of financial privilege and exclusivity associated with pursuing these jobs. I thought, what better way to get a few insights into, for example, what it’s like being a dentist, since it just so happens that my mother is one! Please welcome Mariana, who’s worked as an NHS dentist in the UK for 10 years, after living and qualifying in Romania in 1991.

 

Timestamps

My mother sent me to do dentistry in order to have more money than her… 0:57

Medical school places in England from September 2018, House of Commons Library http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7914/CBP-7914.pdf

What you should know about the 1500 increase in medical school places, Preeti Mahankali-Rao http://student.bmj.com/student/view-article.html?id=sbmj.j5166

 

In the UK you have to protect yourself from lawyers who want to sue you… 3:54

Dentists feel they are more likely to be sued, Seb Evans https://www.dentistry.co.uk/2015/03/16/dentists-feel-likely-sued/

 

No, you cannot make money from dentistry, you need to do dentistry if you’re really passionate… 6:21

 

£19,000 in a month… 7:33

Where do you rank in the official earnings list? Figures reveal huge pay gap between rich and poor, Kevin Maguire https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/uk-average-salary-26500-figures-3002995

 

A patient was drunk and he wanted to hug me and the nurse, and he actually jumped on us and we had to call the police and the manager was forced to show him the zero tolerance policy…  10:17

 

I had a patient bring me profiteroles… 11:31

 

Script

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Intro

Arian Hi guys, how’s it going? Did you know that 90% of A level physics students are male, and now for some reason, 70% of A level biology students including visitors to my website The A Level Biologist – Your Hub, are female? What’s going on? Didn’t see that coming, did ya? ♪ tune

 

Why Did You Become a Dentist?

Arian Welcome to this podcast about the trials and tribulations of vocational professionals in life science, such as dentists. Many A level biology students crave the opportunity to go on to do medicine or dentistry, fields apparently artificially limited to maintain their prestige in terms of how many students are allowed to go on and study them at uni. There’s also a heavy cultural light to these fields, where parents pass the profession down to their kids, and historically there has been a sense of financial privilege and exclusivity associated with pursuing these jobs. I thought, what better way to get a few insights into, for example, what it’s like being a dentist, since it just so happens that my mother is one! Please welcome Mariana, who’s worked as an NHS dentist in the UK for 10 years, after living and qualifying in Romania in 1991. Mother, how did you end up going into dentistry back in your day?

Mariana My mother sent me to do dentistry in order to have more money than her, and she wasn’t a dentist anyway; she asked me to study hard, so I studied, I learnt biology, chemistry, physics and I passed the test for dentist school. So this is how I became a dentist.

Arian What’s the earliest age you remember your mother telling you to become a dentist?

Mariana 8, 9, when she sent me to the dentist, she said Oh, you need to be like him!

Arian That’s quite early. So what was your mother’s job then?

Mariana She was a shop assistant.

Arian And your father?

Mariana He was a footballer.

Arian That’s not quite the full story, is it?

Mariana Yeah? They got divorced but this is what their job was.

Arian So definitely not dentists.

Mariana Definitely not dentists, definitely not going into uni, so I was the first one in my family

Arian So did you even have time to consider what you wanted to do?

Mariana Yes, I wanted to be a ballerina, then I wanted to go to the ski school, so she kept just taking me home and saying Go do your homework! Go do your homework! I like to sing, I still sing in a choir now, as a hobby. But yeah, definitely, I couldn’t see myself being a dentist, no way.

Arian So essentially all of this has been a result of your mother’s advice.

Mariana Yes, I was a good child so I listened to my mom.

Arian OK, so as previously covered, you have now worked as a dentist in the UK and in Romania, and we’re going to find out if there are any differences, stay tuned  ♪ tune

 

What’s the Difference between Working as a Dentist in the UK vs. Romania?

Arian You’ve worked in Romania and in the UK. Tell us the differences.

Mariana In Romania, you’re respected as a dentist and no one is judging you for your treatment or for what you want to do. They bring you lots of gifts like cheese, or apples, or a chicken, or whatever they have in their garden! Hahaha, so it’s a very funny life. In UK you need to protect yourself from complaints, from lawyers who want to sue you, because there are lots of money involved, so it’s lots of responsibility. Instead of doing your job you’re actually spending your time writing your notes, because if it’s not written it didn’t happen.

Mariana So if you do something but actually forget to put in your notes, the patient can sue you, get lots of money, and this is destroying your self-confidence. It’s making you do self-defensive dentistry, so you’re afraid to actually do your job properly.

Arian So is that to say that you think it’s better to work in Romania than in the UK?

Mariana In a sense, yes, because you’re not stressed. You’re just doing your job the way you want to do, so you’re not thinking Oh my god, what this patient can sue me about, oh, what did I omit in my notes, did I put this, did I put that? You need to write everything that can happen, the risk and the complication and everything.

Arian So in what way is it better in the UK?

Mariana It’s better in the UK… uh… just for, I don’t know, for the same reason, for the money; but even in Romania if you have your own private practice you can earn the same amount of money, or even more.

Arian So you’re saying there’s actually no benefit to be working as a dentist in the UK than in Romania?

Mariana No.

Arian Of course, the connotation of utter wealth and dentistry is a big one. We’ll find out the reality of it in just a second

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Do Dentists Make Lots of Money?

Arian A lot of people associate dentistry with bags and bags of money. Is it true?

Mariana No. You cannot make money from dentistry. You need to do dentistry if you’re really passionate about it, if not you won’t survive and obviously, you won’t make money. You just make yourself a hell of a life.

Arian That is very deep.

Mariana This is NHS dentistry. Private may be different, but NHS in the UK, it’s very sad.

Arian So if you do like it, then you can make money.

Mariana Yes, because you just do your passion, you don’t worry about making money, you don’t worry about patients complaining about you, you just do your job. Like a surgeon, the patient is there, sleeping, you just do your job and you don’t have to be responsible in front of him. Or her.

Arian Right, I’m going to ask Mariana to put her money where her mouth is, and see how much she makes, coming up next. ♪ tune

 

Your Earnings

Arian So, what is the most you’ve made in a month?

Mariana Before or after tax?

Arian Before tax.

Mariana £19,000.

Arian Nineteen thousand pounds in a month.

Mariana Uhuh.

Arian And you said this isn’t a lot of money?

Mariana No, this was just one month, one accidental month. Usually, you make like £4,000.

Arian OK, so it was an accident, you accidentally made £19,000.

Mariana I accidentally worked a lot.

Arian Hahaha, how come?

Mariana I was a locum, I was seeing like 40 patients a day, so…

Arian What is a locum?

Mariana Locum is someone who’s replacing a dentist who’s on holiday or ill or whatever. It’s a replacement.

Arian So how come you make so much more money?

Mariana Because locums are paid double because they are needed, so it’s an urgent replacement, they are desperate for you so they pay you.

Arian So the normal amount would be more like £4,000 instead of £19,000…

Mariana Exactly.

Arian And that’s not a lot?

Mariana Of course that’s not a lot.

Arian Well, the average salary is many times less than that, so in what way is that not a lot?

Mariana In the way that you pay your insurance, in the way that you pay your GDC registration, in the way that you pay your taxes, your courses, whatever courses on top of your qualification. You’ve got lots of expenses.

Arian So what are you left with then?

Mariana A thousand.

Arian So you are essentially left with the same as the national average wage…

Mariana Minus the stress and the responsibility, yes.  

Arian So are you saying that you’re worse off than just working a regular average job?

Mariana Exactly, this is what I’m saying. More happy to be in Starbucks and sell coffee.

Arian Ha! That is an extreme statement.

Mariana This is what NHS dentistry is doing with you in 10 years.

Arian You are scaring everyone off now!

Mariana I am of course, you should have taken this interview 10 years ago, and I would have been more optimistic, and more happy, I’d be telling you Oh, I’m going to the UK, I will be a dentist, I will open my own practice, I will be someone. Now I’m just  number. A Performer Number.

Arian So obviously these challenges put the earnings into perspective. Now, we’ll find out more about how hard it can really be, in just a second. ♪ tune

 

Tell Me Your Worst Experiences

Arian Now, of course healthcare work can be very stressful. Have you had any experience with a patient that was almost unbelievable?

Mariana Yes, a patient was drunk and he wanted to hug me and the nurse, and he actually jumped on us; and we had to call the police and the manager was forced to show him the zero tolerance policy.

Arian That sounds pretty intense.

Mariana It was intense.

Arian Was that the worst experience you have had?

Mariana Apart from people biting my fingers like a regular basis yeah

Arian Hahahaha

Mariana And gagging on me and spitting on me and… yeah.

Arian How often does that happen?

Mariana The biting or the spitting?

Arian The biting.

Mariana At least two times a day. Mostly nervous patients, who hate me anyway. “I hate dentists but I’m biting your fingers”

Arian So, it seems like we have covered the bad and the ugly. Let’s see if we can find the good, in just a second. ♪ tune

 

Tell Me Your Best Experiences and Advice for Students

Arian What moments do you look back on in your career as a dentist that made it really special?

Mariana I had a child once, and she was 4 years old, and after the check-up she just came to me and said “Can I give you a hug, my dentist?” and she made my day for couple of hours so I was happy. Then I had some patients bringing me profiteroles, they are making my days also, for a couple of weeks. And the most rewarding is when a patient is shaking your hand and says “OK thank you! See you next time.”

Arian So it’s all about the people.

Mariana But you work with people don’t you?

Arian So it’s a very human-facing job.

Mariana It is a very human-facing job.

Arian Now, lots of students will be very keen on getting even more real life advice before going to university and choosing their careers. What would be your advice to them?

Mariana If you really like to work with people, if you really like to see fear every single day and get detached from it, if you really like to work in a small, crowded, dark space, and fight with a strong muscle which is the tongue, if you really like to work in a team with your nurse every single day, and if you don’t think about making money at all, you need a good spine obviously, you need to be healthy and strong, cos you cannot be a depressed dentist, and you need to be really happy and chappy and optimistic, cos they come into the surgery and tell you “I hate dentists” so you need to start telling them jokes and funny stories, then go for it! If you go just for the money, then run a mile.

Arian Hahaha, that’s pretty good advice.

 

Outro

Arian Thanks for [joining me Mariana, thank you for] listening, and remember, if there is no evidence for something, it doesn’t mean it’s not true, it just means it’s not known. Byeeee

Mariana Byeee ♪ tune