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A locum dentist is an experienced medical professional that steps in to cover shifts on a full or part-time basis. Used by dental practices to fill in for long-term absences or unplanned illnesses, locum dentists are highly regarded and can earn up to £500 a day. 

Because of its flexibility, locum dentistry has many benefits and shortcomings. And whether or not you choose to pursue a career as a locum dentist ultimately depends on what you are looking for from a job.  Naturally, taking on a locum dentist role isn’t for everybody, and you should decide whether you are the right person for the job sooner rather than later. Despite this, being a locum dentist is perfect for some people, and offers an exciting blend of freedom, and professional and financial rewards.

Before you get started, ask yourself, are you willing to be away from home for long periods of time? Are you prepared to be out of work for parts of the year? Can you be frugal during times when work is quiet? This is particularly important for those that have family responsibilities or are the sole breadwinner in their household.

Locum dentistry, then, is ideal for those with fewer family ties and financial burdens, but may also be a suitable pathway for a parent wanting to work around their children and school holidays. It would also suit a dental professional looking to reduce their hours to spend time on other commitments, such as studying or travelling.

Ultimately, if you want to be a locum dentist, you have to be flexible, able to deal with spending time away from home and willing to work outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis.

Benefits of a locum dentist job

Have you ever considered a career in locum dentistry, but you’re not sure whether the venture will benefit you?

Would people take the plunge and wave goodbye to the safety of a permanent contract unless it was really worth it? The answer is, of course – no, they wouldn’t.

For those that are brave enough to give it a go, however, taking on a locum role is really rewarding. 

Excellent rate of pay: The reality is that the profession is crying out for locums. Practices are willing to pay what is necessary to make locum dentist jobs attractive to potential candidates. In some roles, the flat day rate can be as much as £500 – not including expenses. If on a fixed rate, some practices will pay at the end of the shift even – locums will not always have to wait a week or more to be paid. If targeted, this wouldn’t be the case (only if fixed rate). Locums also tend to get paid a 50% private split if there is a UDA target in place for their day.

Hotel and travel allowance: To make it worth your while, most practices will contribute to your accommodation and travel expenses for the duration of your contract. This is a great incentive, especially if you love to explore and meet new people. Some practices will have onsite accommodation options / will be able to help with accommodation, but it’s not often. Travel allowance tends to be £25 / day.

Flexibility and freedom: Working as a locum offers a level of flexibility that you just can’t get with other types of contracts. You choose where you work, when you work, and, to a certain extent, how you work. Being a locum dentist also provides a great deal of freedom when it comes to training, meaning you get to assemble your own bespoke CPD schedule. Many locums work alongside their permanent jobs so you don’t necessarily have to choose between the two.

Variety: Just think of the range of jobs and dental settings that would be available to you. Exploring locum dentist vacancies is a great opportunity if you want to broaden your horizons. Specialist settings are available for locum work which looks great on a CV such as prison service.

Permanent opportunities: Many locum staff will start off as a basic locum and then convert to a permanent member, if this is something both parties are open too. This can give a locum a ‘trial run’ as to what it would be like working for this practice and vice versa. If you are a dentist with an NHS performer number wanting locum work, you will be in high demand with such large gaps within the NHS dental recruitment market. However, we are also seeing an increase in the demand for private locum dentists.

Notice period: Most locum contractors will have a 1-2 week notice period unless it works in the favour of both parties for it to be longer. 

If you commit yourself, the benefits of locum dentistry are limitless – so what are you waiting for?

The reality of being a locum dentist

Like everything else worth doing, being a locum dentist can be hard, so if you want to make the career change there are a few things you should know.

  • You have to be prepared to spend time away from home and not have all your homely comforts around you.
  • Vacancies in Scotland and London attract a lot of attention, so you may need to look in other areas.
  • You won’t like every role that you take on; sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.
  • You won’t always be in work.
  • Maternity cover locums as well as ‘sickness’ cover.
  • On occasion, you may have to take what is available rather than what is most preferable to you.
  • Some contracts don’t work out but if you persevere, locum dentistry can be rewarding.
  • Practices in the current market will pay up to £500 a day.

The harsh reality is that being a locum isn’t always perfect. If you can accept that, you are already halfway there.

Are you a dental nurse? Find out more about locum dental nurse jobs and speak to our specialist recruiter today. 

Locum Dentist Jobs

Our tips for getting the job you want

  • Utilise the services of a specialist locum dentist recruitment agency like us to help you find a suitable role. We can guide you through the recruitment process and raise your profile within the market.
  • Before confirming a long term assignment, have a telephone call with the practitioner to ensure you are happy with everything, as you would with a permanent contract.
  • Quite often, an employer won’t provide a locum with a written contract. So it is always advisable to write to either your agent or to the practice to get confirmation of the finer points of the agreement.
  • Be adaptable in the way that you can work, and quickly – it is likely that some jobs will throw you in at the deep end.
  • Be flexible, but do what is best for you.
  • Be open-minded to the locations that you visit, as limiting your options could be harmful to the amount of work you pick up.
  • Where possible, negotiate a one-week notice period.
  • On the first day of your contract, before your first patient, request some time to run through the practice’s emergency procedures, get used to the computer system, explore the layout of the surgery and generally find your feet. This will help save you time and energy later on down the line, as well as minimise pressure and stress.
  • Not all employers offer a flat day rate, so if you are contracted per UDA and are required to pay 50 percent of your lab bill, be aware that you may not get paid straight away.
  • If you are using an agent, it can pay to make contact with the practice before starting your contract as it allows you to get to know the staff and them to get to know you.
  • We don’t really do an awful lot of locum recruitment in Scotland, so can’t comment on whether or not they get ‘snapped up’ quicker than other areas

Dental Elite provides a highly experienced team of recruiters who work with a range of candidates to find their perfect role. We have a wide range of locum dentist vacancies available at NHS and private practices, offering both full and part-time hours, so you’re sure to find something to match your requirements.

We are here with you throughout the whole process. If you have any issues we can work to resolve these for the locum and practice. If a practice does not send out a locum confirmation / agreement / contract, we will ALWAYS send this to both parties with everything confirmed up in writing so that everybody is on the same page.

Would you like to apply for a locum dentist job? Call our experts today on 01788 545900 to discover a position to suit you. You can also sign up online and apply for new vacancies much more easily. We also offer Locum Hygienist / Therapist, Specialist locum roles. 

  • Lisa joined Dental Elite in September 2015 and has worked as a recruitment consultant, senior recruitment consultant and team leader before being promoted to Associate Director of Recruitment in May 2023. She continues to lead the recruitment team, and also heads up the locum desk, working with practices nationwide to find solutions to their locum requirements.

    Lisa McCusker
    Associate Director of Recruitment
  • Toni Robison is a dedicated and dynamic professional who brings a wealth of expertise to the Dental Elite team. Joining the organization in September 2023 as a Recruitment Consultant, Toni’s mission is to connect talented dental professionals with their dream career opportunities.

    Toni Robison
    Recruitment Consultant
  • Hayley joined Dental Elite in 2018 as part of the Buyer Support Team. She works alongside our Buyer Account Managers to make sure our buyers are informed on all of our practices on the market. She makes use of her excellent interpersonal skills to ensure that our practice buyers enjoy the greatest possible experience.

    Hayley King
    Buyer Support Assistant
“I was seeking a role as I had recently graduated from university, and Dental Elite were advertising a job of interest on Indeed. I worked with their recruitment team, which was a great experience – They were super helpful and easy to contact and made the process really straightforward. I accepted the offer as the team at the new practice were really friendly! I would recommend Dental Elite to others looking for a new role."
Abigail Goodyear
“I was looking for a private dentist role and wanted to relocate from an NHS dental practice to a private one. I accepted the new position as the practice’s location was ideal for me. I worked with Dental Elite, and it was an excellent experience. They communicated with me really well, were easy to get in touch with, gave me all the information I needed and were just generally very helpful. “I’d most definitely recommend Dental Elite to others seeking a new role!”
Dr Violeta Kostova
"I had a great experience working with Toni from Dental Elite. She was incredibly professional, attentive, and dedicated throughout the process. Her communication and responsiveness were outstanding. Thank you, Toni, for your exceptional support!"
Eliza Dancho
"Could not have asked for a better experience from Toni Robison! She really has gone above and beyond for me. I applied for a position and she returned my call within the hour. Very informative and has been an absolute star. She has answered any questions I have had very promptly and really couldn’t have been more supportive. She’s even asked for a follow up which is a lovely gesture. I would give her 10 stars if I could!"
Georgie Mellis
"Toni Robinson is amazing. She was very quick with her responses and efficient with communication and listened me very carefully about my requirements and helped me accordingly in finding a job. Thanks Toni, and I would highly recommended her."
Lovekesh Kumar