Skills and self-esteem: building confidence in dentistry

12 June 2023

Simon Chard discusses measures to increase professional pride.

It’s widely recognised that confidence is one of the most significant factors affecting performance in the workplace. Building your professional confidence through learning and skill progression can reap substantial rewards for your career in dentistry.

Benefits of being clinically confident

Research shows that an increase in professional confidence directly affects quality of clinical practice, leading to improved communication with patients, greater willingness to take on more complex procedures, increased job satisfaction and, ultimately, career progression. Studies show that a clinician’s enhanced understanding of a subject area leads to their greater self-assurance in planning treatment, together with an increased ability to communicate in better detail with the patient. This in turn results in an increase in treatment acceptance and patient satisfaction – a ‘virtuous circle’ that serves to improve clinician confidence further.

Focusing on benefits for the patient, there is a clear relationship between work-related confidence in a practitioner and positive patient perception of their experience in the healthcare setting. In addition, conveying professional confidence to a patient can help not only to assuage dental fear – still such a prevalent issue – but also to cultivate patient trust.

Building skills and confidence

As registrants of the General Dental Council (GDC), dentists are expected to develop their professional knowledge and skills throughout their working life, staying abreast of current best practice. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) should be tailored specifically to you, enabling you to focus on developing skills and competence in areas you are least confident in. Over time, this will enhance your capabilities across a broad range of modalities.

The multi-faceted nature of dentistry means there are many ways to build up your capabilities as a clinician and, therefore your professional confidence. Attending training courses, for example, or finding a suitable mentor are excellent structured learning options. Being alert to opportunities for gaining experience across less familiar fields or observing colleagues’ work in complex treatments helps to accumulate advanced knowledge and awareness. Staying abreast of specific industry events and keeping up to date with a wide range of technical developments further, broaden your overall knowledge base.

Don’t forget soft skills

It’s not just bigger-picture activities that can have an impact on work-related confidence. Fine-tuning soft skills can help to push your dentistry and your confidence further. For example, if public speaking induces anxiety, practising smaller-scale talks with colleagues in a quieter boardroom may help to build confidence in this area. Alternatively, consider training in communication or business presentation skills.

Peer recognition and support

Professional confidence can also be cultivated through relationships within the workplace and wider industry. Recognition from colleagues regarding particular skills and expertise can be a huge boost to professional self-esteem: a clinical recommendation, for example, or a reference in an academic article. Sharing information, in print, online or in person, enhances standing amongst colleagues, improves communication skills and contributes to the professional pool of knowledge.

Validation of effort

Industry accreditation is a tangible demonstration of your expertise to patients and colleagues – a sign of ‘earned’ professional skill and a great boost to your confidence. Gaining such an accolade is an excellent way to structure and drive the building and honing of skills.

By joining a dynamic and forward-thinking organisation such as the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD), dentists can apply for the prestigious BACD Accreditation. The value of this scheme lies in the breadth of the clinical cosmetic dentistry skills that are assessed by experts in the field. The points-based process is designed to be manageable alongside day-to-day professional activity and assesses eight case types in total including smile makeover, indirect shade matching, tooth replacement with natural gingival architecture and complex direct composite bonding.

A journey, not a destination

“We must have perseverance, and above all, confidence in ourselves”, Marie Curie, physicist and chemist, famously said. Consciously and subconsciously, we are all evolving professionally every day, learning and absorbing new information directly and indirectly from all manner of sources and experiences. The confidence that results from this learning benefits both you and your patients, empowering you to take your clinical career where you want it to go.


The final registration submission deadline for BACD Accreditation in 2023 is September 7.

For more information visit


References available on request.