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Our Dentist Alan Pearson reflects on his time as a dentist as he hits his 37th year in the role…..

21st August 2017

Thirty seven years ago in July ……(Bastille Day 1980 to be precise) was my first day in general practice. I was (to say the least) scared stiff but enthusiastic to get started.
I started work as an associate in a busy multi surgery practice in Bognor Regis. The principal had set me up with a full list of patients for check- ups, fillings, even the odd basic extraction. The whole day was a bit of a bur but I finished just about on time……(miracle?!).

The fundamental difference nowadays for a new dentist is the different levels of support they receive for the first two years and particularly the first year after qualification.
Newly qualified dentists are referred to as Vocational Trainees (V.T’s) funny enough I was actually asked to mentor a new dentist myself.

They are closely monitored and guided through their first year, any treatment plans are reviewed and assessed together. After that the VT is asked to write a ‘reflection’ of their experiences with that particular case.

In essence training continues long after university-this is a good thing (of course). One draw-back maybe is that the VT now (unlike 37 years ago) doesn’t take ultimate responsibility until their first two years are complete. The system protects them from full accountability.

Looking back, do I feel that more guidance and support in the early years might have been useful and reassuring but at some point, the dentist and the patient need to meet, discuss, interact and in part……hopefully complete a successful course oftreatment.

The point here is that it is a 50-50 arrangement. The patient is as important in their approach, understanding and participation as the dentist. Successful dental care is as a result of mutual agreement and acceptance with a touch of mediation and a desire to reach a shared goal.

In modern dentistry it is not for the dentist to tell patients what they need to have done, what they must have done- it’s for the patient and dentist to agree (if any) what treatment (or monitoring) should be undertaken and completed.

As a student (yes, 37+ years ago) I was taught that:-

Dentists don’t have patients, patients have dentists……

This thought has stayed with me so far-I intend to stand by it still.

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