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We’ve made dentistry too simple. Not for dentists themselves, that remains complex, challenging and ever changing – more on that later. But members of the public don’t always realise the depth of training dentists need to both qualify and to keep practicing. This is something I discuss with the BBC on their primetime programme Inside Out London, which aired last night [BBC I-player]. In this programme we focus on the training of illegal tooth whitening. We also appear in the following publications
Patients come into the practice and the procedures we treat them with means that dentistry is more or less pain free. We can whiten their teeth in an hour. We can fit implants in a day! We make it look easy, but it is far from that.
I think the perceptions might also be down to the rise of social media and reality television, setting expectations that dental treatments can be immediate, and cheap – in fact so easy you can do them yourself and cut out the dentist! DIY braces (for more information on DIY braces please check out this site) are now widely offered online, Illegal tooth whitening while at-home tooth bleaching is ubiquitous on social media, despite being illegal without a prescription from a dentist.
Who knows the long-term damage these non-professional treatments might cause? Not to mention, they probably won’t be effective – for example, tooth whitening products need to contain 6% bleach to give us pearly whites, but over the counter treatments only have 0.1% bleach. We often find that the illegal tooth whitening kits contain very high concentration of hydrogen peroxide, some over 35%.
So many beauticians fall into the trap of being told that they can whiten teeth, only to end up in court, it is great to be involved with the BBC’s inside out to expose the trainers, who charge allot of money for the equipment and the training, quite frankly ripping people off and putting peoples lives at risk.
This is extremely concerning to me and to my fellow members of the profession, as we see more and more patients coming into our practices to rectify problems stemming from treatments from unregulated providers or as a result of do-it-yourself treatments.
It’s so important the public understand that although we make it look easy, treatment with a dentist is underpinned by years of training. Did you know that dentists study for a minimum of five years before they can treat patients, with further training to specialise to treat patients with implants or braces?
We also spend a considerable amount of time, not to mention money, in ensuring that our patients are safe, are not injured or at risk of an infection while in our care. You may not realise that dentists have to revalidate every year on five key subject areas, including cross infection and medical emergencies. This requires hours of retraining to keep practicing. It is known as Continuing Professional Development, or CPD, and includes providing personal and practice development plans and clinical audits. We are also required to ensure that our skills remain current so are required to verify that we have attended lectures, conferences and training sessions, as well as reading the dental literature.
So while technology may have led to simple and hopefully pain free dental appointments for patients, it comes after years of training and constant learning.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the programme – tweet me at @Ben_Atkins.