Why we must never stop learning from each other


  Posted by: Dental Design      25th May 2020

Recent events have reminded us of the value of community. We are all members of different communities for different reasons and all of these groups enrich our lives in different ways.

The dental community is vast, encompassing a multitude of roles and specialities. Some of you will have chosen your path early; others will have found that your journey to a particular area or discipline was a gradual development, having evolved over time.

Whatever place you claim in the dental community, we are all united by one goal. That is, to deliver care of an excellent standard and dental treatment that keeps every patient in good oral health for as long as possible. Every role in the dental team is valuable, because they are all essential to achieving that ultimate end goal. From the receptionist who treats an anxious patient with compassion, to the dentist who places the dental implant. Then there’s the dental hygienist who instructs patients on how to keep their dental implants clean and the dental technician who uses their skill to fabricate a permanent prosthesis in even the most challenging of clinical situations. Throughout the process, we can all learn something from one another.

Skill mix for better patient outcomes

One of the most inspiring things about being part of the dental community is that the learning never stops. Every patient is unique and our patient base is changing too. As such, we need to rise to the challenge of treating older, vulnerable people and, at the other end of the scale, those who sit your chair, armed with sky-high expectations. There is pressure not just to get it right, but also to go above and beyond. All dentists are aware of medicolegal implications of something going wrong, or a patient who is simply just not happy with their experience.

Proactive, forward-thinking dentists will always be looking at ways to elevate their service delivery and improve what they do. More are upskilling to help a greater number of patients by being able to offer more treatments. Skill mix is being frequently discussed at professional meetings. Discussions consider how it could be the key to better clinical outcomes for all patients. Advocates of the model claim that skill-mix ensures “’the right number of people with the right skills are in the right place at the right time to provide the right services to the right people’… to create a service that truly fit-for-purpose and based on quality.”[i]

Successful implant delivery as a whole-team effort

The delivery of dental implant therapy is an excellent example of how skill mix can be used to enable successful patient outcomes; the whole dental team has a key part to play for a good long-term result. The long-term stability and health of an implant depends on a combination of factors. Patients need to understand that treatment does not end after their dental implant is placed; that is merely the start. Keeping it clean is essential and a dental hygienist/dental therapist is an appropriate practitioner to demonstrate a method for thorough daily cleaning. They can also discuss with the patient the importance of other behaviours – eating a good diet, for example – in between their visits to the dental practice. Everyone involved can learn from each other because they are looking at the same “problem” from a different perspective. It was a team effort to intercept the issue, make a diagnosis that required dental implant therapy and get the patient to accept it; it will be a team effort to keep the dental implant and restoration stable. Let’s not forget the dental technician who ­– using the very best materials, equipment, methods and techniques – crafted a prosthesis that, with good care, will last the patient for years to come.

An all-inclusive approach

The need for an all-inclusive approach is being recognised by dental associations who are tailoring their learning and events programme to the whole team. This includes the ADI, with its diverse, proactive and forward-thinking membership connected by a shared passion for dental excellence. The ADI Team Congress 2021, to be held in May 2021 at Manchester Central, will provide unparalleled opportunities for face-to-face learning and networking. Programmes will feature speakers offering insights on a range of topics relevant to dentists, dental nurses, dental hygienists, dental therapists and dental technicians. Dental nurses and dental hygienists will learn together and separately for a highly tailored learning experience, coming together to examine the safety and benefit of skill mix from different angles.

It’s all about learning, learning and more learning; learning from the best, and learning from each other. The right learning gives every practitioner the practical and theoretical foundation of knowledge to help them meet patient expectations, safeguard them against litigation and deliver outcomes which will lead to lasting improvements in every patient’s oral health.


ADI Team Congress 2021

“The Great Debate”

6-8 May 2021, Manchester Central

For more information, please visit www.adi.org.uk.

ADI members can attend the ADI Team Congress for discounted rates. Join today.


[i] Brocklehurst P, Macey R. Skill-mix in preventive dental practice – will it help address need in the future? BMC Oral Health 2015 Dec (Vol. 15, No. 1, p. S10). BioMed Central.

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