Hazel Rushworth considers the role of BSDHT Ambassadors
As part of a new initiative, the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) has recently appointed a series of BSDHT Ambassadors. These include qualified dental hygienists and dental therapists alongside students looking to enter these professions, all of whom have been chosen due to their dedication to the profession and ability to make a difference not only in the industry but also in local communities.
Hazel Rushworth, a dental hygiene and therapy student from the University of Leeds, is one of these BSDHT Ambassadors. Here she takes the opportunity to explore the role of dental hygienists and dental therapists as educators…
Helping those who need it most
I think the role of dental hygienists and dental therapists as educators in society is very important, especially when it comes to filling in the gaps in people’s knowledge that aren’t filled by schools or parents. While studying to become a qualified dental hygienist/ dental therapist, I also try to get involved with as many projects as possible where I can use my role as an educator to help improve people’s lives.
As part of my course I regularly see patients at a dental hospital and visit outreach centres – here we see the patients who really do need our advice and help as many cannot gain access to regular dental services. This is the perfect opportunity for people in our position to really make a difference and teach these individuals things like proper brushing technique and other everyday knowledge that should help them moving forwards.
You may be aware that tooth decay is the main reason that children aged 5-9 are admitted to hospital, and this is something that I think dental hygienists and dental therapists can really work together on to tackle. I’ve heard from those working within teaching that there are still children that don’t have access to toothbrushes and toothpaste.
I think there’s a great opportunity for us to support teachers and fill the educational gaps, and I think it’s so necessary for us to raise awareness and speak to teachers and other professionals who can give children health advice so that we can all highlight the importance of oral health together.
Reaching out in the community and within the profession
I’m always looking out for ways to help even more, and that’s why I take part in Open Wide at university – a student-led project that helps those aged under 18 facing difficult circumstances to receive the care that they might otherwise not have access to.
This has helped me to teach children of all ages about effective brushing techniques, certain oral hygiene products and other things that they can take away and implement into their daily oral care routine.
I think dental hygienists and dental therapists really are the best placed individuals to give people this care and fulfil an educational role. We tend to spend more time with patients than the dentist, and it’s a good chance for us to better educate them on areas such as the link between gum disease and systemic health conditions, or show them how to floss properly.
I also think that it’s necessary for the profession as a whole to help other team members understand our roles. There are still dentists who don’t understand what our job really involves, and there are definitely plenty of patients who don’t know what a dental therapist is or how a dental hygienist can help them.
We need to get the word out more and maybe change the way that people see us not only through doing more community outreach and educating patients better, but also by getting seen more in mainstream media – for example, why don’t toothpaste adverts have dental hygienists in them?
Spreading the word about the BSDHT
One thing I always make sure that I do is tell other students about the BSDHT and how they can help us better achieve our role as educators in the community. I want to act as a bridge between the Society and the next generation of dental hygienists and dental therapists – we are the future and it’s so important that people entering the profession know that great resources like the BSDHT exist.
The Society is really good, and does so much to increase our influence within the industry. More people need to get involved if we are to really get our voices heard.
Hazel Rushworth is just one of the BSDHT Ambassadors who are all working together to increase the influence of the Society and ensure that dental hygienists and dental therapists know that they have support available when they need it.