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Our changing dental profession: my year as BDA President

Blog Author Peter Dyer

Blog Date 08/06/2018



​It only occurred to me about one month into my BDA Presidential year that I had a fantastic opportunity to bring myself right up to date with the very latest in dentistry at home and abroad. 


I remember the adage that one knew more about the full scope of dentistry on the day of qualification than at any other time in our careers!


As we progressed through our training we would know "more and more about less and less". 


To a certain extent this was true and I realised that after 30 years in oral and maxillofacial surgery, and in spite of being married to a restorative dentistry consultant, and having had the good fortune to have worked with so many skilled dental professionals throughout my career, my knowledge about modern dentistry was in need of an upgrade. 


As the invitations started to arrive from BDA branches and sections to attend their study days, and also from overseas conference organisers - this was, I thought, the time to find out what is new, what are the visionary dentists predicting for the future and what issues facing UK dentistry are also being experienced in other countries.

There is a strong ambassadorial role as BDA President and it is wise to avoid getting involved in political discourse. 

However we are never too far away from being asked an opinion and so it was on my first day of the Pacific Dental Conference in Vancouver.


The meeting coincided with a decision on that day by the British Columbia government to place a cohort of laypersons onto the dental regulatory council of the Provence so that dentists were now in the minority. 

They also had invited a senior regulator from the UK to review dental regulation in British Columbia. I soon found myself answering fairly challenging questions about how dentistry is regulated in the UK and what changes had occurred in recent years. 

Colleagues from Canada and the USA were also very interested in the document that had been launched by Health Education England into the future of dental training in the UK. They were keen to understand the standpoint taken by the BDA in our response to the document. 

Two political issues that clearly resonated with our fellow professional organisations across the Atlantic.


But what did I learn?

I might not be able to pass the BDS final examination again, but I certainly feel much more informed now than one year ago and there are certainly themes and trends that came through loud and clear at the many events I attended. 


There was also a sense that we are becoming more reflective as a profession as evidenced by the speakers at the South Mercia Branch study day who explored how clinical decisions are made and what happens when that goes wrong.

Similar themes were explored at the Southern Counties Branch meeting where the speakers debated whether to restore a tooth with endodontic and periodontal treatment or to place an implant. 

It was with some surprise but also with considerable pride when I heard John Alonge from Baltimore speak at the Irish Dental Conference in Galway about oral surgery and oral medicine. Offering good practical advice delivered in an entertaining fashion, I had heard him speak in Atlanta at the American Dental Association meeting. 

John has an interest in dental history and one of the first slides that he showed was of Sir John Tomes, the first BDA President calling him the 'father of modern dentistry'. Quite a statement and what a great advocate for British dentistry! 

I was struck by certain themes that seemed to recur at various meetings. 

The oral microbiome is one where there is now a huge amount of research taking place particularly with the strong links to diabetes and heart disease. Professor St John Crean's research team at UCLan are also looking at an association with dementia, I learned at the Central Counties study day. 

For some speakers, digital dentistry is the future, in fact the only future for some dentists. There is certainly a dazzling array products being demonstrated at trade fairs and one lecturer claimed to have made a crown for two Euros, employing his teenage son to scan his mouth and then creating the crown using a 3D scanner. The two Euros included his son's sessional fee! 

The speaker used this example to ask some difficult questions about workforce planning.

Finally, there were two issues discussed which again resonated with our experiences and concerns in the UK. 

In Stockholm at the Swedish dental conference one of the speakers during a forensic dentistry lecture, mentioned the possible use of imaging to determine the age of young migrants to their country. 

He did acknowledge the successful stand taken by the BDA recently to dissuade the UK government from this approach.

The second issue arose during a talk about the relationship between sexual and oral health. 

The Canadian government together with many other nations has introduced universal HPV vaccinations for boys and girls.

The evidence is clear and I was left feeling disappointed that our government remains so intransigent about introducing this simple and cost effective method of preventing the devastating consequence of oral cancer in young male patients.

So that is what I learned this year. I am left with one question though. 

At the Middlesex and Hertfordshire Branch meeting in Bilbao, the guest speaker told us that Bilbao FC play in red and white stripes because men went from the town to Southampton to work. 

However one of the guidebooks repeats the story substituting Southampton with Sunderland. Which is correct? Answers on a postcard c/o the BDA please!

Peter Dyer

BDA President 2017-2018

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