Mydentist hosted its biggest annual conference yet, and Tamara Milanovic attended to hear all about the future of Mydentist and how we can boost the much-needed morale within the profession.
After a long break during the Covid-19 pandemic, Mydentist’s Clinical Conference showed that the profession is back in action and eager to meet face-to-face again.
The conference, held at the ICC Birmingham, was its biggest yet, with over 750 clinicians attending.
The two-day conference had an incredible line-up of insightful (and entertaining) speakers, such as periodontitis expert Professor Iain Chapple, deputy chief dental officer of England Jason Wong, and dental director at Dental Protection, Raj Rattan.
And despite the crisis that the country – and specifically, the profession – faces, the overall atmosphere was optimistic about the future of dentistry, with a key word being ‘opportunity’.
To kick things off, chief executive Tom Riall and chief clinical officer Nyree Whitley gave a welcoming speech and discussed the future of Mydentist.
Investing in clinicians
When outlining its priorities for Mydentist’s future, the focus was first and foremost on its clinicians.
Speaking to Dentistry, Tom said: ‘I think the future for dentists within Mydentist is very positive. They can have a healthy balance of NHS and private work; they can do just private work if they want.
‘We want to support them to do the dentistry that they want to do and not force targets on them, not push them in a particular direction. We want to help them and support them to go in the direction that they want to take.’
Mydentist says it has the largest clinical support team in the sector and no NHS targets (only personal NHS allocations), with plans to double the intraoral scanners in practices as well.
Key investments into the future include plans to merge smaller practices into larger multi-surgery practices and to grow private dentistry. The average hourly earnings of its clinicians are set to grow by 10%, Mydentist says.
‘We have heard you loud and clear’
Tom was clear that there is a lot to do to make these plans a reality. During the question-and-answer session, the audience had the chance to ask live questions through an online forum.
With the cost of living crisis at the forefront of everyone’s minds, topics such as the low wages of dental nurses across the country were raised. ‘We’ve made huge progress and, last year, we introduced the highest ever pay increases for our nurses. It isn’t enough and we still need to do more,’ says Tom.
‘We have heard you loud and clear. We can’t change everything overnight, but we’re on it. And we will use your feedback to plan what more we can do in each of these areas.’
Can NHS dentistry survive?
One of the highlights of the conference was the expert clinical panel’s discussion on NHS dentistry and the future of the sector. Jason Wong noted that, for NHS dentistry to improve, we must move away from the current fear culture and towards a learning culture.
Martin Woodrow, chief executive of the BDA, expressed that the marginal changes announced by the NHS aren’t enough. If we want to see a shift in recruitment and retention, ‘we need to see something significantly more fundamental’.
‘The mood in UK dentistry is depressing,’ a dentist told Raj Rattan when he asked why they wanted to emigrate to Australia.
Questions were also raised about whether we are going into an emergency care NHS dentistry model. Though it is a possibility, it isn’t a path the profession would like to see take place, according to the panel.
‘The future is fantastic’
Morale may be low throughout the sector, but the panel agreed that the future of dentistry is full of opportunities. The integration of oral health in wider healthcare and exciting developments in dentistry give a glimpse of hope.
Dentistry becomes far more fulfilling when you use your NHS funding for the cohort of patients that you believe in, suggests Dr Ben Atkins, who is passionate about treating hard-to-reach patients, such as homeless people.
‘There is no greater privilege than to be given the license to look after people’, added Raj. He suggested that if we implement NICE guidelines and penalties for practices recalling healthy patients, we can free up dentists’ time to see more patients and reduce the backlog.
Professor Iain Chapple also delivered a lecture on periodontitis and the importance of prevention and early detection. ‘I believe the future is fantastic,’ he says, noting that the recent NHS periodontitis funding has been the biggest funding change he has seen in his entire career.
‘It all starts with a scan’
Digital manager Pete Bailey shared insight into the digital advancements that are happening in dentistry. He was joined by Dale Flanagan, clinical digital manager, who discussed intraoral scanners.
The innovations at Mydentist range from virtual consultations prior to treatment, an ability to book online appointments and text chat to interactive tablets that help visualise treatment options and show patients how their smile can be improved.
Members of the audience were curious as to just how efficient and practical the scanners currently are.
‘We are on a journey. We still have to do more,’ Tom answered.
‘But I’ll give you this commitment, by the end of 2026, we’ll be at 100% scanning across every single practice!’
There is always help
A reoccurring theme of the conference was the amount of support available within Mydentist. This was made especially evident when speakers Kaynat Shehzad and Neil Simkin spoke on their experiences with the organisation.
Kaynat, a GDP at Mydentist, admitted that being an overseas dentist can feel isolating at times.
‘But my experience with Mydentist is that there’s always someone there to help, you just need to ask,’ she says. Her training with Neil drastically changed her career. She noted that someone was always available to give advice on her cases or suggest treatment plans.
Nyree announced that Mydentist is releasing Connect, a clinical coaching app that will cover restorative dentistry, clear aligners, health and wellbeing.
Finally, dentist Amit Patel and his dental therapist Aneta Beranova discussed the benefits that having a therapist can bring to your practice, but warned against taking advantage of their skills. They both agreed that there is a ‘symbiotic relationship’ between the dentist and therapist – you help one another.
The Mydentist community
These annual conferences are evidently important in bringing the profession together, not only to build a sense of community and boost morale, but also to discuss issues and listen to what dentists really need and want in their careers.
Speaking to Dentistry, Tom said: ‘I think with these conferences, perhaps most important is that our dentists come together. They get to meet each other as friends, they get a sense of community. They swap and share ideas and they feel part of an organisation that’s trying to do the right thing.’
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