Hardest Dental School Interview Questions & Answers

Advice & Insight From Dentistry Interview Specialists

​Key Information

Interviews for Dental School can cover challenging topics. Here, we present 10 of the most difficult 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 do you think are some of the most significant challenges facing dentistry today, particularly in relation to overall healthcare?

Dentistry, like any other healthcare field, is facing its own unique challenges. One of the most significant challenges, I believe, is the rising cost of dental care. As costs continue to escalate, many people are not able to afford even basic dental services, leading to severe disparities in oral health across socioeconomic groups. This is further exacerbated by the lack of dental coverage in many health insurance plans.

Another significant issue is the link between oral health and overall health, a connection that is not often acknowledged by patients or even primary care providers. Studies have shown that oral health can have a direct impact on conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It is critical for the field of dentistry to work on increasing awareness and communication about these connections, both amongst patients and other healthcare providers, to ensure a more holistic approach to health.

How are NHS dentists funded? Is it the same for GP’s?

NHS dentists are remunerated differently from GPs, as dentists are self-employed. The current system of dental activity units requirements means that dentists are contracted to complete a certain amount of treatments each year, and they are then paid once they reach that requirement. I do however, feel that this has its advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, dentists are incentivised to maximise the treatments they do for patients, which can be of incredible value in an area with low access to dental care. On the other hand, the system overlooks the importance of preventive care, and I hope this disadvantage can be tackled in the future.

How can a dentist work to improve community health?

The shift towards value-based healthcare has transformed the role of pharmacists significantly. Traditionally, the pharmacist’s role was mainly confined to dispensing medication. However, value-based healthcare emphasises improved patient outcomes, preventive care, and the efficient use of resources. This change has seen pharmacists assume a more active role in patient care. Pharmacists are now more involved in activities such as patient counselling, medication therapy management, disease prevention and health promotion. They are seen as crucial members of the healthcare team who provide valuable advice on the safe and effective use of medications. This shift encourages pharmacists to work closely with patients to ensure they understand their medications, adhere to their medication regimens, and ultimately, achieve the best possible outcomes. Furthermore, this transformation has created opportunities for pharmacists to specialise in areas such as geriatric care, oncology, and ambulatory care. It’s an exciting time for the pharmacy profession as we continue to redefine our role and contribute to the overall goal of enhancing patient health and well-being.

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Personal Attributes

Describe a situation where you had to demonstrate empathy. What did you learn from this experience and how would it shape your approach to dealing with patients?

I volunteered at a local community centre for the elderly during my high school years. There, I met a lady who was struggling with the loss of her husband. She often felt lonely and missed having someone to share her thoughts with. One day, she seemed particularly down, and I decided to spend some extra time with her, listening to her stories about her late husband. It wasn’t about giving advice or finding a solution, it was about providing a sympathetic ear. I learned that empathy is about being present, showing understanding, and validating someone else’s feelings. As a dentist, I would apply this understanding in showing empathy towards patients, listening to their concerns, and acknowledging their feelings, especially if they are anxious or nervous about dental procedures.

Describe a time when you faced a significant challenge or setback. How did you handle it and what did you learn about your own resilience?

In my sophomore year of college, I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped in one of my key science courses. This was a serious setback as I was planning to apply to dental school. Instead of letting this get me down, I decided to retake the course the following semester. I also sought out extra help and study resources to ensure that I understood the material thoroughly. It was a challenging period, but I was determined not to let this setback define me. I learned that I have the resilience to bounce back from disappointments and that persistence and hard work can overcome obstacles. This resilience will be invaluable in dental school and beyond, as challenges and setbacks are part of any professional journey.

Describe an experience where you had to work as part of a team. What was your role, and how did you contribute to the team's success?

During a summer internship at a healthcare facility, I was part of a multidisciplinary team working on a project to improve patient care processes. My role was to collate and analyse patient feedback to identify areas for improvement. I had to coordinate with nurses, doctors, and other staff to gather data, which required clear communication and effective collaboration. My analysis played a key part in highlighting areas where patient care could be enhanced. I learned the importance of every team member’s role and how collaboration can lead to better outcomes. This experience will be beneficial in a dental career, where working alongside dental hygienists, dental assistants, and other healthcare professionals is crucial for effective patient care.

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A long-term patient comes to you requesting a cosmetic dental procedure that you believe is unnecessary and could potentially harm their oral health. How do you handle this situation?

As a dentist, my primary responsibility is to the health and well-being of my patients. If I believe a requested procedure is unnecessary and could potentially harm a patient, it would be unethical for me to perform it.

In such a situation, I would have a frank and open discussion with the patient. I would explain my concerns about the procedure, ensuring they understand the potential risks and why I believe it isn’t necessary.

It’s crucial to convey this information in a respectful, non-judgmental manner, showing empathy for the patient’s desires while staying firm on the importance of their oral health.

If the patient is insistent, I could suggest alternatives that might help achieve similar aesthetic results without the associated risks. If they still wish to proceed, and I’m unable to resolve the ethical dilemma, it might be appropriate to refer them to another dentist for a second opinion. This decision would be taken in the best interest of the patient, upholding the principles of beneficence and non-maleficence that guide our profession.

​A patient attends your surgery and demands a cosmetic, stain removal clean under the NHS, claiming a previous dentist did this for him before. Manage this case. 

  • It should be explained to the patient that cosmetic treatment isn’t generally performed under the NHS.
  • If within the practice policy, it should be explained that the patient can have stain removal but under private and the necessary costs should be explained to them prior to treatment and informed consent.
  • A previous dentist performing this treatment has no relevance to the current situation if the treatment being requested isn’t in fact an NHS treatment option.
  • If the patient becomes abusive or rude, the staff have the right not to see him.
  • The patient is free to seek a second opinion or consult another dental practice at any stage should they wish to.
  • It is important that the relevant information related to treatments available under the NHS or private is available to patients to see should they wish to read up on it.

How would you handle a situation in which a patient asked you not to share important health information with their parents?

Navigating issues of confidentiality is challenging yet essential in healthcare. In both the UK and the US, dental professionals are obliged to respect patients’ rights to confidentiality. If a patient asked me not to share important health information with their parents, I would firstly ensure they understand the implications of their request. I would explain why sharing this information could be beneficial, especially if it’s significant for their health management. However, if the patient is a minor or lacks the capacity to make informed decisions, things become more complex. In the UK, the Gillick competency and Fraser guidelines could be applied to determine whether the minor is capable of making decisions about their medical treatment. In the US, the regulations may vary by state. If a minor is judged competent, their confidentiality should be respected unless there’s a risk of significant harm. These situations are complex and involve a balance of ethical principles, such as respect for autonomy and beneficence, and a deep understanding of the legal context in the specific country.

Suppose you saw a colleague behaving unethically. What steps would you take?

Professional integrity is paramount in healthcare. If I witnessed a colleague behaving unethically, I would take action. First, I would gather all the facts and ensure that my concerns were valid. If the unethical behaviour was confirmed, I would approach the colleague privately to discuss the situation if it felt safe and appropriate to do so. They might not be aware of their ethical breach, or there may be factors of which I’m unaware. If this didn’t resolve the issue, or if the unethical behaviour was severe (e.g., compromising patient safety or well-being), I would report it to my supervisor or a higher authority within the organisation. There are robust professional guidelines about reporting concerns that compromise patient safety. While it could be uncomfortable to confront such a situation, it is our professional duty to put patient safety and welfare first. Being able to navigate these kinds of ethical dilemmas is part of being a responsible healthcare provider.

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