Case study

Staff and tutor dental hygiene therapist — Amy

Amy works in the restorative department of a dental hospital, treating patients with a variety of dental needs and supervising undergraduate dental hygiene and therapy students

How did you get your job?

Having worked as a dental nurse for three years, I decided that I would like to pursue more of a challenge within the dental profession. The role of a dental hygienist therapist appealed to me.

After graduating in 2010 with a BSc Dental Hygiene and Therapy from the University of Birmingham, I undertook the voluntary foundation training scheme for dental therapists gaining further experience and confidence treating patients within general practice.

Upon completion, I continued to work in both the NHS and private dental practice, also gaining a postgraduate qualification in inhalation sedation.

I realised from an early point in my career that I would like to teach, as I felt very passionately about my job and wanted to share my enthusiasm for this with the next generation of my profession. Having gained some years of experience, I applied for a vacancy as a tutor hygienist therapist.

What's a typical working day like?

I enjoy a very varied working day with lots of responsibility and working with different people such as admin staff, consultants, radiographers, laboratory technicians and patients.

I have a diary of patients to treat throughout the day. Tasks can range from giving oral hygiene instructions to a patient who has undergone radiotherapy, to filling teeth with a range of materials or completing a course of complex periodontal treatment.

As a tutor, I can be timetabled to supervise undergraduate students on clinical patient sessions, teach restorative skills on the lab phantom heads or lecture to either hygiene therapy students or dental students.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Improving the oral health of my patients and knowing that I have helped make a difference, not only to their oral health but also to their general health in some cases. There is nothing like having motivated a patient enough to attempt to quit smoking and being handed a packet of cigarettes there and then to throw in the bin!

What are the challenges?

I've learnt that it's important not to take work home with me. It's essential to keep yourself healthy in body and mind so that you can be of maximum benefit to others.

You need to have good time management skills to allow your day, and that of your team and patients, to run smoothly. Having excellent communication skills is also a must.

How relevant is your degree?

My degree enabled me to register as a qualified dental hygienist therapist and I was able to go straight into a job.

How has your role developed?

My career has accelerated quickly in different directions and I am now engaged in teaching as well as clinical work. I believe this is because I am in a profession that I'm genuinely interested in.

I'm currently on the first rung of the ladder in studying towards a Masters, having completed a distance learning Postgraduate Certificate in Medical Education. I chose this pathway to a Masters as it will help me develop within my current job role.

What are your top tips for others interested in dental therapy?

  • Dentistry is not just about teeth - it's about the patient as a person.
  • As well as having an element of manual dexterity, you also need to have certain qualities and values such as empathy and a caring attitude.
  • You need to enjoy working with people and be able to apply life and people skills in order to become a credit to the profession.
  • You must be invested in lifelong learning.

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