Launching the paediatric dentistry for non-specialists course

We speak to Paul Ashley about the new paediatric dentistry for non-specialists course at UCL Eastman and find out what the future holds for the Institute.

Can you please introduce yourself and give us a brief background on your professional history?

My name is Paul Ashley. I am a professor in paediatric dentistry at UCL Eastman. My background, I trained in Manchester and then went on to do a PhD in caries diagnosis. Moved to the Eastman in 1998.

I’m a paediatric dentist, but I now am an academic lead for the paediatric programs at the Eastman. I also work as an honorary consultant at UCH. So it’s a mixture of clinical and research. 

UCL has recently launched the paediatric dentistry for non-specialists course. Why did you develop this new course? 

When I started at the Eastman about 20 years ago, we provided two to three-year courses for people interested in specialist training. 

Then we moved on to offer something for dentists who can’t take those career breaks. 

We moved on to deliver an online MSc for people who want to learn a little bit more, but didn’t want to or couldn’t commit to three years full time. 

This new course is really trying to give a little bit of information for dentists or professions aligned to dentistry who want to improve their skills in treating children. They perhaps don’t want to go as far as tier two or specialist training, but they want to learn a little bit more.

We chose the Futurelearn platform because we knew we could offer this training for free if people want to do it. This way they can do it in their own time.

It’s a little bit of a labor of love. Our goal is to democratise, try and open up the training that we give to a broader pool of people. Not just in this country but internationally as well. 

Can you just explain what the Futurelearn platform is? 

Futurelearn is a massively open online course. It’s designed to open up access to high quality online training to anyone who’s got access to the internet.

I work for UCL and UCL has a partnership with Futurelearn. The reason we did this on Futurelearn is really to get this course out to as many people or make it available to as many people globally as possible. 

We’re trying to make our knowledge, our learning available to to as many people as we can. Because we really want to try and improve the management of children by clinicians.

At the end of the day, most children will end up seeing somebody in a primary care setting. They won’t come to hospital. They won’t come to a specialist setting.

So that was the vision. 

What exactly does the course cover and what’s involved? 

The course is set over three weeks. Although it’s only really a few hours per week.

We cover what we think are the really important topics. So, we talk a little bit about caries management, prevention, crowns. A little bit on silver diamond fluoride. 

We talk about emergency management of dental trauma. A problem that dentists can sometimes struggle with is a child presenting with the tooth they’ve banged on the playing field or they’ve fallen over. 

We talk a little bit about behaviour management and we specifically focus on delivering local anaesthetic. That skill of giving a dental injection is actually probably the most tricky, but one of the most important skills you have to develop if you want to treat children successfully.

Then we wrap everything up with a little bit around treatment planning.

The course is designed for learners to talk to each other. We had lots of really good engagement between learners in the first run and and they’re sharing their experiences.

Then we drop in from time to time and we might add a little bit here and there just to to add to the conversation. Or maybe tweak some things if people have some good suggestions. 

The course has been incredibly popular so far. What type of students are enrolling on the course? 

We’re on to our second run now. Over two and a half thousand people have logged on so far. So I have to say we are really pleased with that. The numbers we normally deal with are lower than that for our hands on courses we offer.

The three things that have really stood out, first is the global nature. Lots of people from the UK obviously, but people from all around the world. 

There’s a whole range of experience from undergraduates to people who’ve been working for a long time. It’s been very nice to see those interactions.

And we’ve also had some people who are not dental professionals. At present we’ve got a paediatric medical nurse. It’s been a really broad mix. The more diverse the people taking part in the course, then often the better the conversations in the comments you can get and and we can facilitate. 

So it’s been a really good mix. 

This is one of the many courses available at the UCL. Can you tell us a bit more about the education and research at the Institute? 

Taking a slightly broader look at the Eastman, obviously there’s my own part. We run a three-year full-time program. It’s aimed at overseas students wanting to gain specialist status. 

We run a three-year part-time blended learning MSc in paediatric dentistry. This is aimed at anyone who wants a little bit more, but can’t commit to full time.

Clearly we we cover all the different specialties. And again for most specialties, a range of either full time or blended. 

UCL is one of the leading universities in the world. And the Eastman is a postgraduate only institution. 

I think we believe that we’ve got a particular skill at delivering and developing courses for postgraduate study. 

If people want to learn more, there’s too many courses for me to list now, but if you go to the website, you’ll see them all there. 

Do you think there will be any future courses available from the Eastman in the future? 

We’re a little bit of an experiment I guess. That’s probably the best way to describe it. 

I think it’s gone well and our success is being discussed at more senior levels.

There aren’t any specific plans to open this up to different specialties right now. But I suspect if we continue to see the numbers of people logging and applying for our program then we would hope to see more more courses from Eastman for sure. 


Designed by Professor Paul Ashley and Dr Susan Parekh, paediatric dentistry for non-specialists is available on Futurelearn. The course is free to access and can be joined at anytime.

UCL Eastman Dental Institute offers a range of postgraduate courses including masters degrees, specialty training, certificates, diplomas and CPD courses. Choose your programme of study.

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