First cohort of Oral Health Practitioner Apprentices complete their courses


  Posted by: Dental Design      24th July 2023

The first cohort of Oral Health Practitioner Apprentices received their awards in May, making them the first recipients of the Royal Society of Public Health Diploma for Oral Health Practitioners. 

This Oral Health Practitioner apprenticeship, alongside a Dental Practice Manager apprenticeship and an Orthodontic Therapist apprenticeship, is designed to support recruitment and retention within the dental nurse workforce as well as help to free up time and resources. The Oral Health Practitioner apprentices, of which there are seven in total, are now fully qualified to work as oral health practitioners delivering care and treatment to patients alongside dentists in practice.

This new and innovative programme is the only formal qualification of its kind, with a strong emphasis on not only oral health education and promotion, but also the links between systemic disease and oral health, connecting this apprenticeship to the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan which has a strong emphasis on investing in prevention.

The dental nurses came from dental practices and salaried dental service in the Thames Valley and Wessex region. 

The apprenticeship was delivered by a team from the Workforce Training and Education Directorate of NHS England.

The curriculum focus is on the following knowledge areas:

  • An understanding of common medical conditions and how they can impact on oral health and wellbeing
  • Head and neck anatomy, physiology, the prevention of dental caries and periodontal disease
  • Diet, nutrition, hydration, and their links with systemic and oral health
  • An understanding of differing patient group needs across the life course and the management of patients with learning disabilities, dementia and mental health conditions. 
  • The theories that underpin models of learning in individuals and groups to change behaviour.
  • Theories and concepts of motivational interviewing
  • Supporting behaviour change with individuals ( e.g. in a dental surgery) and with groups (e.g. health and social care professionals, ante natal groups etc)

They also acquired the following skills,

  • Performing intra oral skills in taking plaque scores, impression taking, intra oral scanning, application of topical fluoride, intra and extra oral photography
  • Carrying out brief clinical preventive advice interventions and targeted group interventions
  • Provide both oral and general systemic health advice such as smoking cessation
  • Able to provide behaviour change advice and support to individuals and groups across the life course with different cognitive abilities.
  • Provide motivational interviews.
  • Undertake standard NHS health checks for diabetes and blood pressure

Michael Wheeler, Dental Workforce Advisor at NHS England and Course Director, said: “This apprenticeship is one of three that is designed to support recruitment and retention within the dental nurse workforce, the others being the dental practice manager and orthodontic therapist.

“For dental practice owners and salaried dental services, it provides a better trained workforce to embrace flexible commissioning at a local level especially in delivering oral health education and promotion. 

“The oral health practitioner apprenticeship will allow individuals to further progress to become dental hygienists and dental therapists, for which an apprenticeship route is currently being explored by NHS England and the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

“This apprenticeship is designed to support widening participation into dental hygienist and dental therapist training and contribute to the ambition to increase training places by up to 40% by 2031 / 32 which is set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.”

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