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15 years of Dentistry- So what’s changed?

September 14, 2017 by Fairlight Dental

This month I suddenly felt really old. With my 40th Birthday looming next year and my 15th Anniversary of graduating from dental school, it made me reflect on the wealth of changes that I have seen in my practicing career. Advances in science, technology, materials, research and a host of other fields have affected dentistry over the years. These breakthroughs have resulted in a higher quality of care, increased comfort and more choices for patients.

St Helen’s 2002, my first job! I was really fortunate to have a great boss who was really forward thinking- the practice was computerised (not many were then!). We still had the old fashioned paper notes too as he couldn’t quite completely trust the new computers. The NHS dentistry provided, although of good quality was very much, drill and fill focused, with not an awful lot of emphasis on prevention. On returning home to South Wales I worked as a locum in a few practices which didn’t share my VT bosses visions. In 2004, I was lucky to land a job in Chepstow and the practice was awesome! I had a state of the art chair which even had a camera on it. I couldn’t work without this now, it helps patients to see what we see, and to understand the issues in their mouths. Imaging has come on leaps and bounds. We first introduced digital x-rays in 2007 and it made a huge difference to my practicing life. Images appear instantly on screen and we can use ever developing software to manipulate them to see more detail than ever before. We have recently invested in a state of the art digital panoral machine and the quality is mind blowing! 3D imaging is the next step for us and it is out there.

These days, technology aside the main difference in my working life is the breadth of treatment that we are able to offer. Implants are readily available I myself have been placing them for 10 years! 15 years ago there were a handful of specialist practices placing implants and general dentists didn’t seem to know much about them, let alone the public. Adult orthodontics has taken off with the advent of invisible braces and short term orthodontics. It is much more accessible and treatment times are becoming shorter and shorter – my own before and after photos will be posted soon- 3 weeks to go! Whitening treatments are cheaper than they were 15 years ago! Solutions are better, resulting in less sensitivity and better results. Filling materials, crown and bridge materials have all come on leaps and bounds, with more aesthetic alternatives- gone are silver fillings and unsightly metal restorations.

As a profession, prevention has become much higher on our agenda than cure. I have always been fortunate to work with a team that have this attitude. In support of us dentists, our hygienists are constantly helping our patients understand their mouths and how to prevent disease. Gum disease is still the leading cause of tooth loss in the adult UK population but as a profession we are tackling it more thoroughly.

Raising Standards- The year that I graduated saw the implementation of compulsory CPD, unbelievably, before this there was nothing! In 2008 our nurses all had to register with the GDC and hence they are now required to undertake regular CPD. As a practice this has brought us together more, as we have regular practice outings to conferences and guest speakers in to train us and we all benefit from the motivation that this gives the team. A few dentists in the national press, unfortunately giving us all a bad name, has resulted in a shift in legislation and required standards. These changes have resulted in a change to the working week as we now have a designated decontamination room, with very distinct procedures (not an autoclave in the corner of the room in sight!!), legionella tests, risk assessments, the list goes on! We have a defibrillator on site and the team are generally much more geared to patient safety than they were 15 years ago- it can only be seen as a good thing.

Websites, social media, emails, text messages have all evolved in the last 15 years and keeping in touch with our patients is a far cry from the 6 monthly reminder card that was sent back in the day. Embracing this technology has helped us reach our patients and give them more choice. Why not like us on facebook!

All of these changes have resulted in extraordinary progress in the dental profession, and it has been quite a ride! I can’t wait to see what the next 15 years hold.

Dr Sian Jones