Profile of the dentist in the oral healthcare team in countries with developed economies

M Sanz, E Treasure, W van Dijk, C Feldman, H Groeneveld, M Kellett, J Pazdera, L Rouse, V Sae-Lim, A Seth-Smith, E Yen, P Zarkowski
European Journal of Dental Education: Official Journal of the Association for Dental Education in Europe 2008, 12 Suppl 1: 101-10
This paper confines itself to the description of the profile of a general dentist while outlining where the boundary between specialist and generalist may lie. The profile must reflect the need to recognize that oral health is part of general health. The epidemiological trends and disease variation of a country should inform the profile of the dentist. A particular tension between the provision of oral healthcare in publicly funded and private services may result in dentists practicing dentistry in different ways. However, the curriculum should equip the practitioner for either scenario. A dentist should work to standards appropriate to the needs of the individual and the population within the country's legal and ethical framework. He/she should have communication skills appropriate to ascertain the patient's beliefs and values. A dentist should work within the principles of equity and diversity and have the knowledge and clinical competence for independent general practice, including knowledge of health promotion and prevention. He/she should participate in life-long learning, which should result in a reflective practitioner whose clinical skills reflect the current evidence base, scientific breakthroughs and needs of their patients. Within the 4-5 years of a dental degree it is not possible for a student to achieve proficiency in all areas of dentistry. He/she needs to have the ability to know their own limitations and to access appropriate specialist advice for their patients while taking responsibility for the oral healthcare they provide. The dentist has the role of leader of the oral health team and, in this capacity; he/she is responsible for diagnosis, treatment planning and the quality control of the oral treatment. The dental student on graduation must therefore understand the principles and techniques which enable the dentist to act in this role. He/she should have the abilities to communicate, delegate and collaborate both within the dental team and with other health professionals, to the benefit of the patient. The profile of a dentist should encompass the points raised but will also be based upon competency lists which are published by a variety of countries and organizations. It is important that these lists are dynamic so that they are able to change in light of new evidence and technologies.

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