Dentists are in a position of strength

Dentists are in a position of strength, says Nigel Jones, and dentistry has never had more potential to be rewarding.

In the last couple of weeks, I have been lucky enough to spend time with two groups of practice teams, one in Wales and one in Scotland. During that period, I’ve also met with practice owners in England and had conversations with people involved in dentistry within Northern Ireland.

It will be no surprise that, despite the continuing divergence in stance and structure of NHS dentistry in those four nations, there were two common themes. Firstly, HR-related issues, such as recruitment, retention and absence management, and secondly, the rising levels of abuse from a small but growing minority of patients.

Anyone looking in at dentistry from the outside could be forgiven for thinking that all should be very rosy. After all, despite the cost of living crisis, demand from patients continues to exceed the supply of clinicians and levels of interest in having straighter whiter teeth show little sign of abating.

It’s a position of strength that many professionals and small business owners in other fields would love to be in.  However, for many dental practice teams, that is not how it feels on the inside.

The general mood of the nation is not exactly the most positive as we are still reeling from the after effects of the pandemic and dealing with the economic ramifications of the war in Ukraine.

‘Very troubling’

The news, in all its various forms, surrounds us with negativity.

Many people are not in a happy place and for some, that is manifesting itself as anger directed at anyone whom they perceive to be making their life even more complicated. Such as a dental receptionist telling them they can’t be seen under the NHS for months, if not years.

The stories I’ve been hearing in recent weeks have been very troubling. Front desk teams are directly bearing the brunt of the failure to address the challenges of NHS dentistry. It’s not right or fair and it’s no wonder that so many valuable, experienced people are having their commitment to dentistry severely tested.

A career in dental practice, whatever your role, has never had more potential to be rewarding in all possible senses of the word. Whether that’s for the good that can be done for patients, the personal development opportunities or, of course, financially.

It requires practice owners to have the vision, drive and courage to create a practice environment where staff are safe and can reap such rewards. Dentists are now in a position of strength, and more of them are taking advantage of that position of strength to do just that.

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