Robert Nixon, 38, is an NHS dentist in Carlisle.
Hours: 60 a week
Training: five years
Experience: 15 years
Earnings: refused to say. No private practice. The average NHS dentist earns about £35,000 annually.
The job: he has about 3,500 patients on his list. "This area has high levels of poverty and tooth decay, particularly among children, so sadly a lot of my time is spent treating decay and taking out teeth - although we do spend more time now on prevention, giving dietary advice. Since I started, dentistry techniques and materials have both improved, so we are able to save more teeth, to bridge gaps where we would once have put in dentures."
Pros: "It sounds like a clich but dentistry is a vocation: I enjoy treating people. I want to give them the best treatment I can."
Cons: "It's very frustrating when patients find a treatment too expensive; when I say I could save this tooth with a root fill and crown but it will cost you £100. Most people just cannot afford it: they will opt for having the tooth out and a denture, which costs £10.
"When I started, the maximum a patient paid towards fees was £5. Now it's £275.
"In my career I've had three patients with oral cancer who have all died. Every year more people die of oral cancer than of cervical cancer; yet people can't get a free dental examination, which could pick up cases quickly.
"The cuts in our fees have made things more difficult: two dentists have gone bankrupt in our area in the past couple of years. We have tried to continue in the NHS, and so far we've managed."Reuse content