‘Pioneers for our profession’: the first dental therapist AMID Msc graduates

Amanda Gallie and Melody Lynne Schwartz, the recent the recent dental therapist AMID Msc graduates from King's College London, discuss why their course was 'monumental' for the dental profession and the impact they hope it hasAmanda Gallie and Melody Lynne Schwartz, the new dental therapist AMID Msc graduates, discuss why their course was ‘monumental’ for the dental profession and the impact they hope it has.

King’s College London recently produced the first dental therapist graduates to complete the AMID master’s degree.

The dental therapists were tested alongside dental colleagues and received lectures from leading dental professionals, such as Professor Mark Ide.

Despite finishing the three-year course in 2020, Covid-19 pushed back their graduation ceremony to July this year when they were finally allowed to celebrate their hard work.

Two of these graduates are Amanda Gallie and Melody Lynne Schwartz.

We spoke to two Amanda and Melody to find out the importance of their course and the impact they hope it has on the dental world.

Firstly, congratulations! How does it feel to be one of the first dental therapist AMID Msc graduates?

Amanda Gallie (AG): It feels like a pioneering step. I feel proud for the profession. I feel proud for Melody and I because we’re the first to do the course.

We qualified last December, but because of Covid-19 we haven’t been able to graduate. You don’t really feel like that has been squared off until you go and get your piece of paper and celebrate with your friends and family.

That’s when we realised that what we achieved was monumental.

Melody Lynne Schwartz (MLS): I honestly feel I’m proud of both Amanda and myself for being pioneers for our profession.

We, as dental therapists, at times feel overlooked when it comes to progression and growth. Most see limitations as to what we can achieve and how innovative we can be. So, to be the first to break new boundaries does feel quite gratifying.

I know that is only the beginning and I really do hope that this will give future dental therapists the drive to achieve more.

Why is this so important?

AG: It’s important as it helps to smash the glass ceiling.

There is a branding issue and misconception with dental therapy – the restorative skill set and competency.

Completing a restorative Msc expands the knowledge base and skill set and employers will recognise this. It also means the DHT will contribute more in the workplace with added confidence. I feel this qualification, and others like it, will level things up for the profession gong forward. 

MLS: To see why this is so important, you only need to look at how the current clinical work force operates and how work is being distributed.

As I have mentioned, dental therapists are commonly overlooked, especially when it comes to skill sets. Having this qualification can now highlight that a lot of work that is passed on to dentists can be distributed to dental therapists.

Also, as a unit, a lot of clinical time can be saved, whilst at the same time achieving the best patient care possible with no delays.

Currently, and unfortunately, the scope of practice is limited because of the direct workflow to the dentists. This is mainly due to the lack of knowledge as to what the capabilities of dental therapists are, and this qualification, I believe, is the game changer.

What changes do you hope this will bring to the profession, and dental therapy specifically?

AG: With dentistry and the NHS crisis in the news, there is change talk going on. The proposal for therapists to be able to carry out more of their scope in the new NHS contract is encouraging.

Having done this course, I’m ready to step up and contribute more if needed. AMIRD provides a framework for prevention care and, if implemented, will reduce the burden on dentists having to carry out the whole piece, thus providing more access.

I hope to see the day where therapists can work to scope and be recognised for the prevention experts that they are. This course is another pathway to career progression and lifelong learning.

MLS: If we could tailor our treatments to be more patient-centred, together we can come up with preventative treatment plans and prevent oral disease.

Overall, the faster we treat a patient, without having to refer them, the better the outcome. How we currently operate can be better managed.

Dental therapists are highly skilled specialists in their own right, and I do not blame fellow dentistry mutuals for forgetting that we have a comprehensive understanding of the entire ‘head and neck’ biology. We are still stuck in the past of what a dental therapist once was.

I feel that if we are given the recognition and allowed the opportunity to apply our skills, we can widen the scope of dentistry and provide the time for more innovative studies.

Looking at dental therapy for the skills that it does provide, passing on responsibilities, will only allow for less pressure on the entire dental team.

We as dental therapists can help with risk assessments, oral environment control, early prevention, oral education, restorative work and interception of disease. This means that the industry already has a frontline workforce, now it’s time for us to utilise this, the future is here.

Now you have graduated, what are your next steps? 

AG: I’m spreading the word and I hope to provide some education pieces around AMIRD for the team.

This week I’m at an international meeting delivering the results of my Msc thesis, so it’s an exciting time. I hope to carry out more research in the future.

It’s nice to give something back.

MLS: Initially, my main focus is collaboration after collaboration. I am the number one advocate for ‘team work makes the dream work’.

I essentially wish to utilise my new skills and never stop learning. I believe in my field, and developing a future for up and coming dental therapists is key.

So for today, it is all about spreading the word, making our skill sets known and learning from fellow mutuals. Tomorrow, however, is another day and my aim is to take us all to the next level.

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