10 Most Common Dental School Interview Questions and Model Answers

Advice & Insight From Dentistry Interview Specialists

​Key Information

Interviews for Dental School can cover challenging topics. Here, we present 10 of the most common questions and answers suitable for Dentistry candidates. These questions are aimed at candidates for both the UK and US.

Knowledge of Dentistry and Healthcare

What have you read about dentistry in the news?

I was intrigued by a news article describing the increasingly high volume of hospital extractions in children. These are almost all caused by tooth decay, and I recall the figure to be over 100 hospital extractions a day in the UK. Following that, I did some online research and found an article in the British Dental Journal which provided further detail. The research highlighted that there was variation in rates of decay in different parts of the UK, pointing to significant health inequalities. I fell that this is particularly concerning, as tooth decay is a preventable disease, which can be tackled by both dentists directly by promoting good oral health and diet. Secondly, dentists should advocate for public health measures such as sugar taxation, and more oral health education in schools, especially in underprivileged districts.

How do you think the role of the dentist could be improved?

Dentists play a huge role in the oral healthcare of patients in the surgery, by performing procedures and treating diseases such as caries as gum disease. However, I believe that improvements can be made in behavioural management of patients. For example, more time spent on communicating and encouraging good oral hygiene could potentially prevent diseases, and therefore reduce patient time in the surgery. This can bring about a sustainable and mutually beneficial change in patients’ lives.

Outline one key challenge faced by dentists today, that would not have been faced by dentists 25 years ago?

In the current era of social media, mobile phones and instant communication, it is challenging and important for dentists to be aware of data privacy issues. For example, the complex issue of patient communication over the internet, and access to clinical information. The balance between good patient communication and confidentiality is a fine one, as dentists need to encourage close contact with patients, such as to keep track of treatment goals and oral hygiene habits. However, dentists should also keep up with modern data security and think critically when communicating confidential information over the internet.

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You are a newly hired dentist at a busy city practice. You notice that your senior, Smera, often shows up for work late, hungover or still drunk. She owns the practice and was instrumental in hiring you, and you feel a loyalty to her. Nonetheless, you decide to speak to her about this. In this role play, you are speaking to Smera.​

1 – Greet Smera and ask her to speak in private at a convenient time.
2 – Commence with open questions asking Smera how she is keeping and thereafter probe further with statement such as the following, ‘Is everything alright at the moment Smera? I can’t help but notice that you’ve seemed to be struggling a bit recently.’
3 – Make sure to appear empathetic and non-judgemental, in order to allow Smera to speak honestly with you.
4 – Let her speak, and respond in a tone appropriate to what she says. Explain that you wish to support her, and that you are happy to speak to her about any issues she may be facing. Perhaps tell her that you are grateful for her having hired you, and aren’t looking to cause undue trouble. You must, however, state that you find this behaviour unacceptable. Being hungover – or worse, drunk – could endanger patient safety. Explore what her work day currently entails and how her drinking is affecting it – perhaps she is not seeing patients and working largely at practice development currently.
5 – Patient safety is the core issue. You must be sure that the two of you can formulate a plan to deal with her drinking problem, and ensure that as she deals with it, she cannot in any way endanger any patients. Consider exploring if in addition to alcohol, Smera is using any other recreational/mild-altering substances and the underlying reasons for this if not already addressed. Excellent candidates will establish that Smera is presently in the midst of a divorce battle.
6 – If you have a productive conversation and it is clear that she hasn’t been seeing patients whilst in this state, then you can move forward by creating a plan to deal with her drinking. Inform her that you don’t wish to report her to any disciplinary body, but that you will have to do so if her behaviour continues, and/or endangers patients – or if it has already endangered patients in any way. Furthermore, consider how you can assist Smera socially as well as directing her to appropriate medical support (eg. GP or Alcoholics Anonymous).

​Your best friend, Marie, has given you a hard drive containing their revision notes, which they have spent a long time on and are proud of. When leaving the library one evening, you pick up a different hard drive by mistake, and go home without realising. You realise the next day. As far as you are aware, this is the only copy of the notes.

1 – Call Marie and let them know what has happened.
2 – Be straightforward and honest. Signpost first, to let them know the direction of the conversation – ‘I appreciate you lending me your hard-drive however I have some bad news unfortunately.’ Ensure you apologise quickly and sincerely.
3 – Be patient if they are initially angry, or if they have many questions.
4 – Carefully explain the situation, and how you lost the hard drive. The situation can quite possibly be rescued. You have taken the correct first step – letting them know about the problem as soon as it arose. The next is to try to find it. You may wish to call the library, or go in person. Explain what has happened, and provide them with the hard drive you took by mistake. Give them a mobile number to contact you on. Hopefully, the owner of the other hard drive will bring your one back.
5 – As a fallback, it may be possible to find the owner of the hard drive you have taken by accessing it – they will likely have named essays on it. However, consult the university staff on this; it may contravene university policy.
6 – After returning the hard drive, wait to be contacted by the university. Assure your friend that you are aware of how important it is, and that you will do everything you can to get it back.

The receptionist receives a phone call; it’s from the wife of a patient asking if her husband had registered at the dental practice and when his next appointment is. The waiting room is full. The receptionist responds to the caller, confirming his details over the phone and that his appointment is on Friday at 2pm. Which ethical issues arise here?

  • The receptionist is part of the dental team and all members must maintain patient confidentiality and protect their details (4th GDC standard).
  • The receptionist should not confirm the husband’s appointment with anyone but the person in question or unless he himself has given consent to inform someone else and their identity also confirmed.
  • The receptionist must not repeat patient details over the phone especially in a full waiting room.
  • These errors are a breach of patient trust and confidentiality; duty of candour should be considered in ensuring that corrective measures are taken as well as the affected parties (patient) being appropriately informed of the shortcomings.
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Role Play

​You have been paired with another student, Rishi, to do a presentation. They’re hard working and diligent, but have fallen ill. They ask you to finish their part of the presentation, which they have made a good start on. Your tutor is notoriously strict, and has said this presentation must be done tomorrow. You are aware that you don’t have sufficient time to finish both your part and theirs to a high standard.

1 – Ask to speak to Rishi as soon as possible calling them and introducing yourself.
2 – A simple statement will work well here. Bear in mind that you need to work together to come to a solution – ‘I wanted to discuss the project further if that’s alright ….(giving Rishi an opportunity to respond……..I’m afraid I won’t be able to finish both of our parts myself. I was wondering if you have any suggestions?’
3 – Make sure that you are empathetic; they may well feel guilty about not being able to help.
4 – Explain that there simply isn’t enough time to do the entire presentation to a good standard, and that you have tried your utmost so far. If you are worried or panicking, be honest and let them know this. Ask them if they can do any more work at all on their part, even if it is just providing notes or a rough guide. Explain that if they cannot, they will have to contact the tutor and let them know that they are ill. If they are worried about doing so, let them know that you will support them and inform the tutor that they have worked hard on the presentation so far.
5 – It is feasible that you could finish the presentation to a lower standard, but this would not provide a fair mark for either you or the other student. Consider if Rishi’s illness is affecting them in any other way, and if there is anything else that you can do to support them (once the projects demands have been addressed)
6 – To summarise; in this situation the best outcome is finding an efficient way for the other student to help you finish their section. If this is not possible, then the tutor must be told, so that a fair mark can be attained or perhaps an appropriate extension should this be possible.

You are shadowing a dentist, Miriam, whilst doing work experience in the summer holidays. After seeing patients, Miriam is rude about them, and seems disinterested in helping them. She rushes through her appointments, and jokes that her receptionist has been sending her far too many patients to see.

1 – Ask Miriam to speak with you in private at a convenient time.
2 – Begin with an open question, such as, ‘How are you Miriam?’ and ‘How are you finding working at this practice?’ Is it OK to talk about your tone with some of the patients?’
3 – Do your best to appear respectful to Miriam, in order to encourage her to speak to you. Despite the asymmetric positioning between work experience students and qualified dentists; in appropriate behaviour should not be tolerated and should always be addressed.
4 – Ask if Miriam is aware why you wanted to speak with her and if not, explain that on occasions, you have noticed that Miriam’s tone with patients may be seen as disinterested. Tell her that whilst you are only there for work experience, you still felt that you had to speak to her about this issue. Ask if there’s any reason for her treating patients in this manner. Stress to her that you feel rushing patients is highly inappropriate, and maybe could be dangerous for patients as well as potentially undermining Miriam’s professional qualifications.
5 – It is likely that Miriam will take this poorly. However, you must communicate the key worries here – that she is not listening properly to her patients, and that through rushing them she may be missing things. Candidates who explore the underlying reasons further will be told about the challenging circumstances that Miriam is facing at home, and these frustrations are being carried over to work.
6 – It will be difficult for you to formulate a plan unless Miriam takes what you have to say well. If she does, and is willing to change, then you can help her work on this while you are assigned to the practice. Had there been the opportunity to involve another dentist/practice manager or other senior staff this would also be appropriate in ensuring long term change as well as helping Miriam to better take the constructive feedback.

A 12 year old, Zoe, comes for her routine dental appointment. She is brought in by her mother. The mother says that Zoe shows no interest in her oral health, often forgetting to brush her teeth and eating poorly. She asks you to quickly speak to her daughter.

1 – Introduce yourself to Zoe and ask how her she is.
2 – Commence with an open statement or question asking how Zoe is today and following this up with a slightly more focused but nonetheless open question such as; ‘your mother has asked me to speak to you about oral health. Any idea why this might be?’
3 – Don’t be condescending – try to understand Zoe’s point of view and be as informative as possible.
4 – Let Zoe answer your first question. Dependent on what she says and her tone, adjust what you say next to ensure you are able to have a productive conversation. The key here is to hone in on why she is so disinterested in maintaining a good standard of oral health, and then in turn to learn if there is anything you can do to change her behaviour.
5 – Explain that taking the time to do very small things now will help save a lot of trouble in future – neglecting her teeth can have serious consequences, like decay, or bleeding and receding gums. Ensure you make caring for her teeth seem easy, and remind her that a good oral hygiene routine will quickly fade into part of her daily routine.
6 – Ask if she has learnt anything from your conversation, or if she intends to change anything. If she still seems uninterested, explain again that you are trying to do your best for her and to help her. Ask her to bear what you have said in mind, and that you will give her and her parents leaflets to help.

Whilst doing your work experience before university at a local dental surgery, you notice another work experience student, Paul, looking at their neighbour’s confidential records.

1 – Speak to Paul and ask him if you can speak to him quickly in private.
2, 3 – Commence with an open question, for example asking how he is doing today and how Paul is finding the work experience.
4 – Suggest to Paul that you noticed that he was reviewing the records of his neighbour and ask the reason for this. Adjust your response based on what Paul says as Paul may have a valid reason, for example person in question may be the next patient due at the surgery or the dentist may have requested the specific information. If there is no such suitable explanation, discuss with Paul if he understands the rules regarding confidentiality and medical records and the appropriate action to take when this is broken. This will likely involve discussing the breach with the charge dentist/practice lead and possibly relaying this breach to the patient (Duty of Candour) depending on the level of breach and exact circumstances.
5 – Given that Paul has reviewed one patient record inappropriately, it may be possible that Paul has also inappropriately reviewed other patient’s dental records. Furthermore, it would be important to reinforce the rules regarding work experience behaviour to ensure that no other breaches have occurred.
6 – Agree a plan going forwards which is likely to involve discussing with the dentist/practice manager as well as a firm agreement regarding the unacceptability of this behaviour in future.

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