The secret dentist – dentistry is the most powerful influencer in the UK (if only we could stick together)

The Secret DentistWith so many groups in dentistry pulling in different directions, it’s difficult to have one common voice to help argue the bigger causes, the secret dentist says.

The dental profession has the ability and opportunity to stake its place as the most powerful influencer in the UK. Bigger than the often quoted, most powerful influencers – Facebook, Youtube, Tiktok, Twitter, Netflix etc.

In the UK, 33 million people ie half the population, visit a dentist once or twice per year.

We have an ability to ‘do the right thing’ and positively influence everybody.

Our patients mainly attend willingly for regular care to be re-assured that all is ok and to regularly receive small interventions that prevent larger things going wrong.

Patients having treatment are highly vulnerable. They are lying down, with their mouths open having treatment, which they are not in control of, taking place in a very sensitive part of their body. They need to 100% trust the person doing the procedure. Patients give us their trust, and more often than not, thank us at the end.

So why don’t we make more of this? What is holding us back?

Segregating dentistry

The current turmoil in the world created by the pandemic is an opportunity to promote a new way of thinking.

  • Tradition – dentistry has traditionally (particularly in the UK) been sitting at the ‘kiddy table’ of healthcare. Looked down upon by those who think we aren’t proper medics and more so by the mainstream NHS
  • The NHS – the NHS wants to totally control us but detests the sight of us. It only puts up with us because it would be a political nightmare to get rid of dentistry
  • Ourselves – unfortunately, the NHS system has made thousands of dentists adept at making the system work. This is mainly about survival, but has become an increasingly difficult task over the 70 years of the NHS. We still, however, seem to be up for the fight
  • Division – far from being united we remain by and large, 10,000+ small practice owners making decisions for themselves. There are corporates of all shapes and sizes, but fundamentally they are still dwarfed by the huge number of practices owned/run by individuals/partnerships
  • BDA – still the largest professional body (of dentists) but stuck in a time warp of the past. Trying to do its best but failing miserably
  • BAPD the new kid on the block, but largely a collection of Facebook warriors who mainly talk amongst themselves. This causes them to believe what they say is true
  • FGDP – another small group of inward looking, slightly more specialised dentists who like to give themselves a regular, good old fashioned, congratulatory, slap on the back. Also generally representing the older generation. The College of General Dentistry is soon to replace this. Which will be just the same but rebranded and trying to escape from the clutches of the medics
  • Local Dental Committees (LDC) – well financed (by lots of other dentists who have no choice). Bunches of older dentists who like to pontificate about what is going wrong and occasionally shout a little but basically achieve nothing.

We must mention Dentinal Tubules, run by the non-stop, 24/7, Dhru Shah. We should commend Dhru but the organisation is mainly a CPD delivering set up. It is not trying to influence the world outside dentistry.

It could have some influence if it put its mind to it. Generally the average age of the members is younger, and it embraces the whole profession.

So where do we go?

In this new COVID-19/20/21…era, we need to build on the trust of our patients. Talk to them and influence them.

We need to ensure newsletters go out regularly with our positive, caring thoughts. Show that we aren’t just about teeth but about the whole patient and their family.

Healthcare is a unique business and dentistry is even more unique within healthcare.

Now is the time to rise up and seek to lead and influence like never before as the world around us enters the ‘new normal’. We need to influence this new normal by showing that there are people out there who do care, who do the right thing and can show leadership.

Make sure you positively influence every single patient you see today and tomorrow. Let them know how much you care. How much you care about them and their family and that you are there to help.

Now is the time to turn our patients’ trust in us for better use.

Now is also the time to influence the older generation of dentists that they need to do the right thing by their younger colleagues and force a change to NHS dentistry. Allowing the same old fudge is not acceptable.

Then all we need is an organisation/movement to smash our glass ceiling.

Answers on a…anything you feel appropriate.

Catch last month’s Secret Dentist column here.

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