Are you up to date?

This article explores the options dental professionals have in order to remain current when it comes to the latest evidential findings in relation to oral health (brought to you by Johnson & Johnson, the makers of Listerine).

The General Dental Council’s continuing education requirement for registered dental professionals changed in 2018, including the need to have a personal development plan (PDP), to spread the hours evenly over each five-year cycle, to align activity with development outcomes and to ensure continuing professional development (CPD) corresponds to individual fields of practice (GDC, 2017).

This enhanced CPD (ECPD) essentially requires four elements – to plan, do, reflect and record, whilst the old system could be described as a ‘[…] method of simply doing and then recording CPD activities […]’ (Brindley, 2018).

Placing this need into everyday context, Brindley (2018) wrote: ‘The requirement for professional development will never be complete. The evidence base that underpins our professional development is continually evolving and as such our ability to learn and develop is an intrinsic part of professional life. In order to identify Enhanced CPD activities, we should take time and effort to move past the basic question of “what do I need to learn to get through the day?” and instead look to finding activities that facilitate us with opportunities to live a worthwhile professional life’.

Sourcing quality education

The Royal College of Surgeons (England) states that: ‘People learn through study, experience, personal reflection and shared learning. Lifelong learning is not just about going on courses and it is now possible to access a wide range of learning opportunities including those involving IT’ (, 2019).

In line with this ethos, it suggests the following as possible sources for Enhanced CPD (, 2019):

  • Formal education providers
  • E-learning activities
  • Postgraduate lectures and hands-on courses
  • Distance learning
  • Reading information
  • Common interest groups
  • Special interest groups.

Maguire and Blaylock (2017) suggest that: ‘Carrying out an assortment of CPD activities to achieve specific learning objectives is likely to be more successful than one-off occasions.’

However, they also acknowledge: ‘[…] study leave from training or clinical practice is limited in nature due to contractual restrictions, clinical work requirements and the financial considerations involved with attending various events, so dental profes­sionals should examine what they will acquire through attending the event or course which gives […] CPD.’

Personal development plans

Taking the time to reflect on your role, the tasks you perform, your career progress and then evaluating your professional development is an important aspect of delivering the best possible standard of care to patients.

On this subject, the (2019) states: ‘Completing and utilising a personal development plan (PDP) effectively can help support you on your road to progression and what you really want to achieve. It can give you, as an individual, structure, focusing on quality and accountability, which are significant considerations in terms of future goals, not only for the individual, but for a dental practice too. A PDP is a method for identifying your developmental needs and devising the best solutions to achieve this development.’

It has been acknowledged, however, that this can seem a daunting exercise and, to help overcome this, it has been suggested that it may be useful to reflect on the following ideas (, 2019):

  • What are you good at?
  • What could you do better?
  • What do you think you could change to benefit your practice?
  • Do any patients make you feel uncomfortable or uneasy?
  • Has a patient asked you something you don’t know the answer to?
  • Have you ever needed to look anything up?
  • What issues have been raised in your appraisals?
  • Does your practice run effectively? The best it can?
  • What doesn’t run well in practice?
  • Have there been any significant events in practice?
  • What are the practice development priorities? How do they affect you?

When it comes to creating the PDP itself, this is a document personal to each individual and can take a form that suits you, but must include (GDC, 2017a):

  • What CPD is planned to be undertaken during the cycle, including CPD that is relevant to current or future field(s) of practice
  • The anticipated development outcomes linked to each activity
  • The time-frame for completing each component in relation to the CPD cycle.

There are example documents available online to help dental professionals complete their PDP, including on the GDC’s website (GDC, 2017a).

Embracing change

Dentistry is always advancing and changing, leading Maguire and Blaylock (2017) to write: ‘Once the dental professional has completed the goals set out in their PDP, these should be reflected upon to ascertain how useful the new knowledge or training was, how it can be applied to current or future practice, and to identify potential areas for future development or learning needs. The individual would ideally also reflect upon the method used to achieve these objectives so that it aids future learning decisions. This strategic thinking ensures that time and energy is directed towards learning activities that address the goals or objectives which need to be challenged.’


Brindley J (2018) The role of reflection in ECPD. BDJ Team (5) 18027: 21-3

GDC (2017) Enhanced CPD guidance for providers

GDC (2017a) Personal development plan: GDC template

Maguire W and Blaylock P (2017) Preparing a personal development plan for all members of the dental team. BDJ 223(6): 402-4 (2019) accessed 14 January 2019 (2019) accessed 14 January 2019

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