Introduction: Regulatory processes for Oral health care professionals are considered essential for patient safety and to ensure health workforce quality. The global variation in their registration and regulation is under-reported in the literature. Regulatory systems could become a barrier to their national and international movement, leading to loss of skilled human resources. The General Dental Council is the regulatory authority in the UK, one of the nine regulators of health care overseen by the Professional Standards Authority. Aim: The aim of this paper is to present the professional integration experiences of internationally qualified dentists (IQDs) working in the UK, against the background of regulation and accreditation nationally. Methods: Registration data were obtained from the General Dental Council to inform the sampling and recruitment of research participants. Semi-structured interviews of 38 internationally qualified dentists working in the United Kingdom were conducted between August 2014 and October 2017. The topic guide which explored professional integration experiences of the dentists was informed by the literature, with new themes added inductively. A phenomenological approach involving an epistemological stance of interpretivism, was used with framework analysis to detect themes. Results: Internationally qualified dentist’s professional integration was influenced by factors that could be broadly classified as structural (source country training; registration and employment; variation in practising dentistry) and relational (experiences of discrimination; value of networks and support; and personal attributes). The routes to register for work as a dentist were perceived to favour UK dental graduates and those qualifying from the European Economic Area. Dentists from the rest of the world reported experiencing major hurdles including succeeding in the licensing examinations, English tests, proving immigration status and succeeding in obtaining a National Health Service performer number, all prior to being able to practice within state funded dental care. Conclusion: The pathways for dentists to register and work in state funded dental care in UK differ by geographic type of registrant, creating significant inconsistencies in their professional integration. Professional integration is perceived by an individual IQD as a continuum dictated by host countries health care systems, workforce recruitment policies, access to training, together with their professional and personal skills. The reliance of the UK on internationally qualified dentists has increased in the past two decades, however, it is not known how these trends will be affected by UK’s exit from the European Union and the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Dental care professionals
- Internationally qualified dentists
- National Health Service/NHS
- Oral healthcare professionals
- Overseas registration examination
- Professional integration
- United Kingdom