Clinical dental technicians call for scope of practice review

The Clinical Dental Technicians Association UK (CDTA UK) is calling for an expansion to the scope of practice of clinical dental technicians (CDTs).

As such, the association has prepared a proposal outlining its recommendations for a revised scope of practice, aiming to ‘enhance the quality of dental care available to patients across the UK’.

The proposal, written by Rob Handley and Rob Kenyon, was put together with consideration of the General Dental Council’s commitments to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

It states that a broader range of direct services to patients will have many benefits, such as enhanced monitoring and follow-up, expedited access to care and consistency of treatment planning.

The proposal also claims that the current scope of practice create barriers for CDTs, the wider dental team and patient access to dental care, especially with the emergence of dental deserts across the UK.

CDT constraints

For example, the current CDT scope of practice makes it necessary for a patient with natural teeth requiring a partial denture to visit a dentist for a prescription to see a CDT, even if they have recently visited the dentist.

However, CDTA UK maintains that this presents an access barrier due to ongoing NHS dentistry access issues, patients without dental registration and those with dental phobias.

According to CDTA UK’s research, if every CDT on the General Dental Council (GDC) register could work within their professional judgement without the need for a prescription, an extra 211,640 dental appointments could be made available per year.

The proposal also highlights scenarios in which a patient may need to see a CDT urgently, such as if they have fractured an anterior tooth on their denture and they aren’t confident returning to work until their appearance is restored. 

The document states: ‘All of the above scenarios are commonly encountered by CDTs and all require the need to obtain a prescription from a dentist, creating access barriers for the patient and lost surgery time for a dentist, for seemingly minor tasks that CDTs are qualified to undertake.

‘Furthermore, this creates both mental and physical impacts on the patient.’

‘Pervasive misunderstanding’

The authors of the proposal said: ‘We have taken the initiative to review the scope of practice documentation for several compelling reasons. As CDTs, we often find ourselves marginalised both by our regulatory authority, the GDC, and within the broader dental community.

‘This marginalisation stems, in part, from a pervasive misunderstanding of our integral role within the dental team and the unduly restrictive scope of practice imposed upon us by the GDC.

‘The primary aim of this document is to illuminate the myriad of benefits that would ensue from recognising and expanding the role of CDTs. By doing so, we can enhance the functionality of the dental team as a whole while simultaneously improving patient access to care.’

Numerous obstacles

The authors continue: ‘Regrettably, under the current scope of practice, patients and CDTs alike face numerous obstacles. These include challenges in obtaining prescriptions, often exacerbated by a reluctance or delay in prescribing, which detrimentally impacts patient access.

‘We contend that such impediments do not serve the patient’s best interests and lack any justifiable clinical rationale. Moreover, they fail to honour the patient’s preferred treatment plan. We surmise that these issues stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of the capabilities, qualifications, and contributions of CDTs.

‘The document we propose seeks to shed light on the constraints under which UK CDTs operate daily. It draws comparisons with international standards and models within our profession, aiming to highlight what we perceive as discriminatory practices.

‘We earnestly request the support of our fellow dental care professionals to address and rectify these injustices, advocating for a more inclusive and equitable approach to dental care provision.’

You can read the full proposal here.

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