The power of mentoring in dentistry

Miranda Steeples explores the potential transformative power of professional coaching and mentoring for dental hygienists and dental therapists.

As we step into 2024, the landscape of dental healthcare in the UK continues to evolve, bringing with it many opportunities and challenges for all dental professionals.

For dental hygienists and dental therapists in particular, steering through this dynamic environment necessitates not just clinical expertise but also a robust set of soft skills, adaptability and a clear vision for their career paths. This is where professional coaching and mentoring comes into its own.

At its core, coaching and mentoring in a professional setting involve a more experienced individual guiding another in their personal and professional development. This relationship focuses on setting and achieving specific goals, developing competencies and fostering a deeper understanding of one’s role in the broader context of the profession.

Benefits abound

With all that in mind, let’s home in on the potential benefits. Firstly, there is the opportunity for enhanced skill development. As we all know, dental hygiene and dental therapy are fields that demand continuous learning.

Coaching and mentoring can aid in identifying areas for skill enhancement, be it in new dental technologies, clinical skills, patient communication or practice management, for example.

In addition, dental hygienists and dental therapists can often face crossroads in their careers, such as moving into specialised roles or even transitioning into academia. A mentor’s insights, drawn from their own experiences, can provide invaluable guidance.

When it comes to improved job satisfaction and retention, coaching helps in aligning personal goals with professional ones, leading to greater job satisfaction. This in turn enhances retention, a crucial factor in a field experiencing workforce shortages.

As for soft skills like communication, leadership and empathy, they are vital. These are often honed through reflective practices encouraged in mentoring relationships.

Change is difficult – we all know that. Yet adaptability in the face of change is key to success. The dental field is constantly evolving with new technologies and practices, and coaching helps in developing an adaptable mindset, crucial for keeping pace with these changes.

Last but by no means least, they can provide networking opportunities. Mentors often introduce mentees to a broader network of professionals, opening doors to opportunities that might otherwise be inaccessible.

Real-world applications

The new year is expected to bring with it advancements in dental technology, changes in patient demographics, and evolving healthcare policies. Dental hygienists and dental therapists must therefore be adept not only in their clinical skills but also in understanding and adapting to these changes. Here, mentoring and coaching can play a crucial role.

For instance, a dental therapist might transition successfully into a role involving more complex procedures, guided by a mentor who has navigated a similar path.

Another scenario could involve a dental hygienist who, through coaching, develops a more effective patient education programme, thereby improving patient outcomes and satisfaction.

Mentorship can also be instrumental in overcoming specific challenges. For example, a mentor could guide a mentee through the complexities of setting up a new practice for direct access, navigating the regulatory landscape, or even managing work-life balance.

Thinking partners

Professional bodies like the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) play a pivotal role in facilitating these mentoring relationships. They can provide platforms for mentorship pairing, continuous education programmes and networking opportunities.

You can embark upon a transformative journey with the BSDHT’s innovative Coaching and Mentoring Programme, tailored to shed light on your career path and accelerate your professional and personal development.

Whether you’re stepping into the professional world, feeling stagnant in your current role or aspiring to new heights in your career or personal life, the BSDHT’s programme is your gateway to unlocking potential and realising dreams.

Imagine a space where your aspirations, from finding a new job to starting your own business, pursuing educational endeavours or even confidently marching towards retirement, are not just dreams but achievable milestones. With up to six personalised coaching and mentoring sessions, you’re not alone in your journey.

Our programme is a catalyst for discovery – uncovering your inherent strengths and aligning them with your unique vision and goals. We’re committed to fostering your growth, be it in enhancing work-life balance, nurturing positive relationships, building resilience or honing your communication skills.

Under the guidance of experienced mentors, you’ll delve into a non-judgmental exploration of your current situation and future aspirations. These ‘thinking partners’ are more than coaches. They’re collaborators in your success, offering confidentiality, commitment and thought-provoking challenges to your perspectives.

With accountability as a cornerstone, our programme doesn’t just ponder, ‘What’s holding you back?’ but actively propels you towards, ‘How can you leap forward?’

This article first appeared in Dentistry magazine. 

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