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The structure of our profession is changing for a variety of reasons, and those in charge of dental education are looking at what they need to do to respond to that change. And as your reps at the BDA, we are looking at what the future of dental education might hold, and how to ensure dentists have a viable and enjoyable career ahead of them.
In my role as your YDC member, I’m also a cross-rep to the BDA’s Student Committee and the British Dental Students Association, and I went along to their most recent meeting, where the issue of the future of training for dentistry was a key issue on the agenda.
Should dental hygienists and therapists take part in BDA Student Committee/BDSA meetings?
As part of the Advancing Dental Care initiative, Liverpool University have piloted a 3 year programme where all BDS and dental therapists are integrated in the same programme and call themselves "dental professionals", rather than dental students or dental therapists - the Committee discussed the implications of this and what it might mean for dentistry as a profession.
One suggestion was to have dental hygiene and therapy students attend the BDSA meetings, because of this move to integrate these DCPs more into the BDS programmes.
The Committee took a vote, and a compromise was reached, where BDSA representatives were not in favour of inviting dental hygiene and therapy students to meetings – as it was felt they do not officially have BDA membership at the moment – but a further discussion would be had in terms of a package of support the BDA might be able to offer these students.
Combatting the fear of the GDC amongst student dentists
Dental regulation was also on the agenda, and Toby Ganley, Head of Right Touch Regulation from the GDC gave a presentation on their plans for engagement with dental students, to help combat some of the fear we have been telling them that younger dentists are feeling about their regulator.
The GDC are planning to speak to dental students earlier on in their careers, to discuss what the regulator does, and address any concerns students have. There was a consensus from the Committee that the GDC have taken a more positive approach to the profession recently, and are trying to build a better relationship with dentists, which is welcome. Lauren Harrhy, also recently spoke to their Chief Executive Ian Brack, about the GDC’s relationship with the profession and what can be done to improve it.
Committee members did raise the point that the perception younger dentists have of the GDC is still one of dread though, especially when they attend dental schools for inspections and this needs to change.
Tackling stress: new helpline for BDA members
Following on from this, the Committee discussed the issue of tackling stress in the profession, as fears over litigation, as well as facing the wrath of the GDC, is another big topic for students.
Reps raised the issue of access to mental health and well-being support were generally poor and vary greatly across the Universities. Some said people have to wait 3-6 months for support and for counselling and are only offered 3 sessions.
The issue of workload for students was also highlighted with a variation in course, for example,l Plymouth has 6 weeks off over the summer holidays, whereas other courses only have 2 weeks, which could be a cause of stress and mental health issues for some.
BDA members do now have access to support from Health Assured, a confidential and free service, which offers a helpline you can call any time and can offer you counselling sessions. BDSA President, Erin Jaffray, recently blogged about this new service and how you can access it.
Is there a date for NHS dental contract reform?
Reform of the NHS dental contract was also discussed – we talked about when this might be rolled out, which is anticipated to be April 2021, but there is still no definite date and we await news.
Reps asked for the BDA to consider sustainability issues and suggested offering an option to send out the BDJ electronically-only if people wished this. Sustainability in dentistry is an area the BDA is working on, and it has flagged up some great resources to help dentists be more ‘green’ in their practices.
It was great to see such an enthusiastic and proactive group in action, and many of the issues discussed will also be on the agenda at our next Young Dentists Committee meeting.
We’re always looking for new reps to get involved, if you are interested in becoming a student dentist rep (or any other rep!) do get in touch to find out more.
Amaar Hassan, Academic Clinical Fellow &
BDA Young Dentists Committee Member
Improving working lives for younger dentists
We support dentists at all stages of their careers and our Young Dentists Committee and GDPC Associates Group aim to be the voice of those starting out in dentistry and those mid-career.
They work on a range of issues, including pay and conditions, education and training, career pathways, the impact of dental regulation and stress in the profession, and dental health and science issues.
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