This year, the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) hosted their highly anticipated annual Oral Health Conference (OHC) online. This decision was made to keep delegates safe and enabled attendees to learn in comfort, with sessions timed in the evenings and weekends so that individuals could work the show around their professional schedules.
The theme of this year was SEE AND BE SEEN – with all sessions focusing on building skills, helping individuals evolve in their roles and perfect engagement with patients and team members alike.
Diane Rochford, the newly elected President of the BSDHT, kicked off the conference by explaining the online format. Delegates could access resources from sponsors, as well as speak to one another in a live chat function. Furthermore, the set up allowed delegates to view the poster presentations and to type questions during educational sessions, meaning they could instantly engage with the material and share their thoughts and ideas.
This online interface was incredibly easy to navigate, and one huge bonus was that delegates could access what they wanted, when they wanted, allowing everyone to explore what was on offer on their own terms.
The programme started strong on Thursday evening with a session on unconscious bias, hosted by Josie Hastings. In this lecture, Josie explored the way that our mind uses bias as a sort of shortcut – leading us to make preconceived decisions and perceptions based on our own experiences. While helpful in some ways, Josie argued that this unconscious bias is also very harmful in professional settings, especially as we may use it to make assumptions about people of a certain sex, race, background, sexuality and more.
A fun and informative blend of online exercises and questions helped delegates to understand the way that their mind works and the unconscious bias that may be there, while Josie also encouraged delegates to type examples of unconscious bias into the chat function to broaden the conversation.
Following this, the evening finished with a more clinical lecture by Nicola West. Focused on dentine hypersensitivity and how to manage this in practice, this session delved into why dentine hypersensitivity is becoming more common and how certain actions and behaviours are exacerbating the problem. Supported by plenty of new research and interesting sources, this lecture also served to educate delegates on how best to help patients with dentine hypersensitivity.
Friday evening saw an interesting start with a panel session surrounding BSDHT Indemnity. Featuring representatives from FTA Law, Lloyd & Whyte and BGP (providers of the BSDHT Indemnity policy) this panel discussion was formed to help delegates with any legal concerns. Topics covered indemnity policies and questions about dental nurse support, as well as the legality of providing a potential Coronavirus vaccine in the future. The session also covered the ins and outs of the legal perspectives involved if professionals set up their own practices.
This session generated a lot of questions, and delegates added many queries to the discussion that were all answered by the experts.
Following a brief session hosted by Oral-B, delegates finished Friday evening with a session from Ian Dunn surrounding the shame patients feel when they have periodontitis and how profoundly this condition affects them.
A lighthearted but also very informative talk, Ian Dunn delved into the science behind periodontitis and biofilm, and the emotional impact that periodontitis has on individuals. The primary goal was to motivate patients to change their behaviour in order to prevent and help lessen the impact of periodontitis, and this meant that delegates were given tips on how to speak and engage with patients, with case studies to help support the evidence.
The third and final day of this year’s OHC saw Diane Rochford hand over to Anna Middleton of London Hygienist fame and Alif Moosajee for a session exploring the benefits of using digital intraoral scanners during hygiene appointments.
This session highlighted how these systems could be used to inform patients on their oral hygiene and improve consent. The speakers included information about the systems for those interested too.
Moving on to one of the most empowering talks of the conference, Megan Fairhall’s session encouraged attendees to think outside of the box and explore what their career and skills really meant to them. She delved into the various career options available for individuals both within and outside of dentistry, and explained how she was using her skills to form multiple streams of income – something that could be achieved easily by anyone with qualifications in dental hygiene and therapy.
Megan really encouraged people to look within themselves and pinpoint their interests, strengths and goals, as well as setting out the available paths in education, online marketing, sponsorship and beyond which people could take to diversify and enrich their working lives. This session was very well received with multiple people saying how inspired they were by the end.
Then it was time for the annual Awards. The Student of the Year Award went to Claire Bennett from Cardiff University. Commended for her dedication to the industry, Claire, who has completed her degree in Dental Therapy, has worked in dentistry for over 24 years and called receiving the award a “great honour and privilege”.
Due to the high number of exceptional entries for the poster competition this year, the BSDHT extended the accolades to include five winners instead of three. The Student Poster winner was Sejal Dave, while the Highly Commendable award went to Laura McClune. Bronze was awarded to Dr Malaaika Al-Koky, Silver went to Anne Ford, and the Gold prize went to Aylen Dervish – huge congratulations to them all!
A panel discussion on chairside dental nurse support then followed lunch, giving delegates the chance to learn more about this important issue, which is one of the BSDHT’s core aims. This session looked at how many people currently have dental nurse support. This was a surprisingly large amount but showed that there is more to be done until dental hygienists and dental therapists receive the support they need in practice.
A zippy session by Claire McCarthy about hand instrumentation followed, generating so much interest that delegates begged to have practical sessions on the topic incorporated into next year’s show.
Claire explained the ergonomics of using hand instruments and the general care routines these instruments need in order to remain effective. It definitely highlighted an area that many delegates were unsure about, and there were a lot of questions at the end asking for guidance, which Claire was happy to provide!
Following this, Fiona Ellwood put mental health into the spotlight with a session focusing on mental health and how this has been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. A Mental Health First Aider, Fiona made it clear how important it is to have someone in practice that can be there for people when they are struggling, especially during highly stressful times. An astute and thoughtful insight into mental health as a whole, this session provided delegates with a chance for self reflection and made it very clear just how important it is to prioritise our mental health as well as our physical health.
Finally, Tim Newton closed the show with his session on behaviour change and oral health outcomes. Tying in a lot of the themes from other lectures, this session really hammered home the message of the importance of helping patients to improve their oral health behaviours.
A blend of scientific insight into behaviour formation and change as well as pertinent oral health evidence, this session was a brilliant way to round off the show, leaving delegates with a lot to think about and apply in their careers.
An exceptional event
The OHC this year overcame the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic to deliver an engaging and exciting event that left hundreds feeling inspired. The BSDHT proved that its focus on supporting and uplifting members continues, and put together a show that demonstrated, even in times of adversity, the community surrounding dental hygiene and therapy is strong and ready to make positive change.