Dental core trainee:to be or not to be?

In this article, Rachael Otukoya talks about her experience in dental core training, and why it is invaluable in gaining further experience post-qualification.

Finishing my dental foundation training gave me more confidence in seeing and treating a range of patients post qualification. Dentistry can sometimes be a minefield of different opportunities. I thought that it would be a good idea to see and treat people in different environments, under different circumstances. I was always intrigued about doing a year of training in oral and maxillofacial surgery. From what I had seen from my undergraduate training, dental core trainees in the speciality appeared confident in doing jobs that I would not even think possible at this stage in my career. So, I eagerly applied for the job, and got it.

Seeing patients in accident and emergency

First and foremost, it opened my eyes to the world of surgery. That it is not just restricted to dentistry alone, but so much more in a patient’s journey. Seeing patients in theatre having procedures in orthognathic surgery, head and neck oncology surgery. Skin cancers and dento-alveolar surgery on adults and children alike, to name but a few. It also made me realise that there is so much more than the surgery itself. Including managing medications, taking bloods for patients, cannulation, and preparing patients for theatre. But this is not to say the role was without its challenges.

Seeing patients in Accident and Emergency, with facial fractures, lacerations and other maxillofacial injuries gave me an insight into suturing, gathering medical histories. Managing a patient when you are first on call to a scene as well as prioritisation of jobs. When to call for senior review, liaising with other specialties and urgent care delivery. Within a training environment, the 12 months spent in the role has given me far more confidence in the management of a medically compromised patient. Or someone who is acutely unwell, as well as recognising the signs of when a patient needs urgent medical attention, something that may not have been possible had I not done this job. It also helped me considerably when undertaking my current role.

Mouth Care Matters

Following on from this, working in special care dentistry has enabled me to build on existing skills gained from the previous year. Including managing patients with complex medical histories and seeing inpatients that were referred by ward staff complaining of pain, swellings, dry and sore mouths, lost dentures and loose teeth, which are a potential aspiration risk. Additionally, seeing patients with special needs. Including severe learning difficulties and epilepsy, bed-bound patients, bariatric patients, patients undergoing cancer therapy. Those with dental anxiety under local anaesthetic, intravenous and inhalation sedation and general anaesthetic in both hospital and community settings. Also for those who find it difficult accessing a general dental practitioner. Not only that, from an academic aspect, involvement in quality improvement projects such as information leaflets and audits. Posters on a national and international level, publications and conference attendances to increase knowledge within and outside of respective specialties.

The dental public health aspect has increased my awareness of the importance of oral health on general health. Also through Mouth Care Matters, a programme piloted in East Surrey Hospital. Aimed at improving the oral health of hospitalised inpatients and resources for ward staff. I have been able to provide training and oral health promotion for allied health care professionals, doctors and in the community, including at the Young Epilepsy Centre. And contribute to the national rollout of the programme. Which is already prevalent across 13 trusts in Kent, Surrey and Sussex, across many acute hospital trusts in the country.

Summary of enjoyment

I have thoroughly enjoyed my dental core training years, often for different reasons. I do believe that whatever a young dentist aspires to do. Dental core training is a fantastic opportunity to increase knowledge and understanding of different aspects of dentistry, and indeed healthcare. It creates a well-rounded individual who understands different specialities within dentistry. Including its structure, and encourages multidisciplinary team working. I would strongly recommend those that are considering doing dental core training following foundation training to do so. As it will increase your knowledge and understanding of different patients from various backgrounds. It encourages up-skilling in a supportive learning environment.

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