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DTA: Representing you

By DTA | 4th August 2021 | Blog

 What does the Dental Technologist Association hope to achieve for its members over the next few years?

The DTA will continue to support dental technologists through the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, helping them navigate a path through the extremely difficult and challenging situation in which UK dental technicians and clinical dental technicians have found themselves.

While it appears that dentists' incomes are being supported via the NHS, we look likely to lose many of our professional dental technologists due to the lack of government support for these essential members of the dental team; a serious concern we have voiced on an ongoing basis.

We have raised the question of what might happen if the dental profession is faced with an insufficient number of the essential skilled and experienced dental technologists who  are needed to manufacture the custom-made dental appliances that patients need. Without these expert technicians the dental health of the UK population will be greatly   impacted for some considerable time to come.

The DTA continues to raise awareness regarding the importance of the dental technology profession, and the vital work  that dental technologists do as an integral part of the  oral healthcare team. Dental technologists are the unsung heroes of the profession, they deserve recognition. They constantly develop their skills and knowledge in order to  create precision crafted, custom-made dental appliances, and they are often the instigators of - and the first to embrace - cutting-edge technological innovations, while also providing support to dental clinicians. This work demands a high level of manual dexterity and attention to detail, plus an appreciation of applied aesthetic values.

Many dentists encourage a close working relationship with their dental technologists to help maintain that excellence for every carefully tailored dental device. The laboratory is  no place for a 'one size fits all' attitude. Each patient is unique, meaning no two appliances are the same. Every dental device has been individually designed and, for the patient,  seems to have almost been magically created somewhere special away from the clinical setting.

Every piece is expertly crafted by skilled hands, fine-tuned to the clinician's exact specification to ensure that when fitted the device is comfortable, aesthetic (meeting those requests for example of 'A3½ with a less transparent incisal or stipple and gum stain to a mature natural form' etc.) and mechanically sound.

They are all rigorously quality assured prior to placing on the market (as required by MHRA - MDR) ready for fitting by the clinician. Dental technologists work with specialised  equipment in their laboratory, equipment ranging from simple hand tools and mechanical devices though to CAD/CAM technology, utilising a broad portfolio of dedicated and  approved materials.

They understand the properties and correct applications for these materials, and use them to optimise the design and construction of custom-made dental devices, fashioned  with absolute precision to the clinician's prescription. Also as required by MHRA - MDR for dental appliances, the traceability of materials and assessment of the production  process is recorded.

Many patients remain unaware that a dental technologist has created their new custom-made dental device, whether its a denture, crown, bridge or orthodontic appliance, but  knowing the care and attention technicians bring to their work provides the confidence the clinical team need to proceed to the final fit stage in the surgery.

We are pushing for a broadened dental technologist Scope of Practice, which, as the profession and integrated technology continues to evolve, will help to enhance the patients' oral healthcare. Although the current GDC Scope of Practice details what all registrants - including dental technologists - are trained and competent to do, it sometimes  constrains the potential for modern dental patient care. 

While indexing the areas in which dental technologists have the knowledge, skills and experience to practise their role safely and effectively, as well as describing those  additional skills dental technicians could develop, it ignores the times when technologists are asked to work outside their recognised Scope of Practice to provide new custom- made dental devices for the sole benefit of the patient. 

Clinicians will often urge dental technologists to "just solve the problem in the laboratory" but the technicians are restricted by the existing GDC regulations and find they have  overstepped their Scope. The DTA believes, and is working towards, some essential amendments to the current Scope of Practice to legally allow technicians to assist in  providing enhanced patient care.

The DTA also continues to provide quality assured lifelong learning to its membership through a variety of media, meeting the requirements for Enhanced Continuing  Professional Development (ECPD) set out by the GDC. The DTA's planned programme of ECPD covers all required fields of activity while also maintaining the quality assurance  now demanded of dental CPD providers. 

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