I want to share with you my experience of getting work experience. I know how disheartening it can be to ring practice upon practice only to be told by every single one that they’re not accepting work experience students. It’s frustrating because, without the experience your application to dental school is essentially worthless, and yet it can sometimes be out of your hands.
My advice is this: stick with it, keep pestering people and eventually someone will get back to you. Don’t just try general dental practices, contact orthodontists, special care dentists, local hospital dental departments etc. Whilst these kinds of places generally offer shorter placements, they can be very interesting and will give you talking points at interview that may set you apart from other applicants.
Your own practice is a good place to start. From my experience, many practices are often reluctant to offer work experience to students they don’t know because, being a patient focused job, it can be risky to let just anyone into their practice (entirely fair and reasonable!). However, your own dentist knows you and will therefore be better placed to make a decision as to whether you’re suitable to be let loose! It’s important to be a bit cheeky, do try and stress how important it is that you gain some experience, and once you have secured some, make the most of it by asking as many questions as you can.
When I was trying to organise experience, I rang 20 practices, emailed another 30+ and heard back from 2 that were willing to let me spend some time with them. I managed to organise a day with an oral surgeon, a day at a special care clinic and a week with an orthodontist on top of this. It wasn’t easy, it was time-consuming and mostly it was bloody frustrating, but it was definitely worth it. By the end of summer I will have spent around 25 days with different practitioners and my experience so far has definitely helped me to confirm that this is the career I want.
Stick with it!