The Probe - Proudly serving the dental profession for over 60 years

Smile May/June 2019 – Oral cancer: improving early detection GDC development outcome C

Course Dates: 3rd July 2019 - 3rd July 2021
Enrollment Dates: Enroll Anytime
Who can Enroll: Anyone
Course Language: English
Price: FREE
Not available

About the Course

To understand the extent to which oral cancer affects the UK population and the growth trends we can anticipate

To recognise the risk factors and early warning signs for oral cancer

To be able to advise patients on how to carry out self-examination

Course Structure


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You are not alone – Mental health in dentistry

Course Dates: Open-ended
Enrollment Dates: Enroll Anytime
Who can Enroll:
Price: FREE

About the Course

I would never have coped as you have, working through the pandemic and dental access crisis. I’m incredibly lucky I missed out on the excitement of mask-fits and dealing with impatient, exasperated patients. The increased stresses on you must be enormous. The new targets announced just before Christmas would have sent me over the edge.

I never intended on retiring early from dentistry, but by the winter of early 2018, I was pretty much spent, both physically and mentally.

I took my decision to seek an early release from my 31-year sentence while lying flat on my back on a blanket of ice coating a public car park near my corporate practice and figuring out how I was going to achieve early retirement AND, of more immediate importance, get myself back on my feet, having sustained a dislocated shoulder as a result of the fall.

I lay stranded like an upturned, sobbing tortoise, waiting forlornly and in vain for another Homo sapien to pass by at 6.30 in the morning.

My shoulder had been a problem for many years, but by 2018 it had become almost impossible to extract a tooth without feeling like my arm was slipping out of joint.

I must quickly point out that I was a late starter in dentistry – I didn’t go to university until I was 29 and didn’t qualify until I was 35 – I just want to put paid to any notion, after you read the timeline, that I’m a wimp.

I can’t say that for the first twenty years of my career, I worried excessively about running into trouble with the GDC or dental litigation pit-vipers – I was worried about everything else, but I don’t recall being overly concerned about the legal bogeymen.

The main fear that dogged me throughout my career was inadvertently doing iatrogenic, irreparable damage to a patient. As far as I know, I managed to avoid that.

Having said that, I was a wriggling bag of neurosis from my first day at dental school, right to the end of my practising life. I starkly remember getting a dressing down from a senior lecturer (one of the few I actually liked and respected) after I managed to drop a polishing disc down the back of a patient’s throat. My crime was not that I hadn’t secured the disc properly, but that I appeared to be shaken by the incident in front of the patient.

I admit, I was never the most confident of practitioners, though I tried desperately hard to put on a front. When I moved to the corporate side, I found myself frequently being asked by younger colleagues to help remove teeth and stubborn roots – probably the only aspect of my practice I was reasonably comfortable with. Fortunately, not long after I qualified in the late eighties, I brow-beat the local oral surgery consultant to give me free lessons on surgical extractions in theatre. That year-long experience of one-day-a-week did me a world of good.

But it didn’t allay my deep, long-held belief that I wasn’t good enough to be a dentist. I failed the 11-plus in the year England won the World Cup, and I only gained the ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels necessary to go to dental school after attending evening classes at the local technical college while I was working full-time in another occupation.

My lack of confidence and the overwhelming anxiety that I would foul-up at any second made me impossible to live with at home – my late wife taking the brunt of my most unpleasant mood swings.

Eventually, my wife persuaded me to seek professional help, and I did. I was lucky to find a private psychologist who used to work in Broadmoor, and I HOPE that I was child’s play to him. Having said that, I saw him for several courses of therapy when I hit various crises of confidence over the years, and I was bereft when he died a few years before I retired.

Like everyone in UK dentistry over the past 10-15 years or so, I became increasingly alarmed at some of the stories I read about dentists being sued by dental litigation firms and, as a result, started being less courageous in some of the cases I treated in practice.

It didn’t help that a local practitioner I knew had her good name dragged through the national newspapers after coming to the attention of a notorious dental litigation firm that gives the North a really bad, seedy name. She didn’t deserve the treatment she got in the nationals – and since the case was dealt with out of court, I am 99.9% sure that the obnoxious ‘dental specialists’ tipped the papers off, as is their greedy free-advertising habit. The case destroyed her and she retired early.

It was only when I joined Twitter that I realised that the dentistry induced anxiety that had plagued me for so many years, was ubiquitous in the profession. Many dentists and dental professionals revealed that they too had experienced similar mental issues to me – I felt much better. I wasn’t alone.

The help I received from my psychotherapist, was invaluable, though I was far from ‘cured’ after my first sessions in the early 90s, but I thoroughly advise seeking help early on if you recognise that you are struggling.

Not looking after your mental health is incredibly important, otherwise it might snowball out-of-control. I know of two dentists within a 15-mile radius of where I live, who both took their own lives after suffering severe depression and anxiety as a direct result of practice pressures and, in one case, the threat of litigation.

One great place to start is by joining the Facebook group ‘Mental Dental – A Group For Dentists In Crisis’ (  Here, I guarantee you will find many dental professionals who share your anxieties.

If you are not keen on airing your problems in a public forum, I would implore you to seek help from your GP or find a good psychotherapist privately. In my case, my anxieties weren’t eradicated completely, but therapy helped me to learn coping strategies and, in the environment you are working in now, coping strategies are almost as invaluable as a great dental nurse.

About the author

Ollie Jupes is the pseudonym of a former NHS dentist. He monitors dentistry on Twitter as @DentistGoneBadd

BDA: Pioneering NHS dentists thrown under bus by government

Course Dates: Open-ended
Enrollment Dates: Enroll Anytime
Who can Enroll:
Price: FREE

About the Course

The BDA has condemned the gulf in support offered to over 100 pioneering practices in England, who after years of testing new ways of providing NHS care, are bring forced back to working to historic models of care from April.

These ‘prototype’ practices volunteered to form the test-bed for new ways of delivering dentistry, to replace the widely discredited target-based NHS dental contract. In October they were informed that regulations supporting new ways of working would not be renewed.

NHS England has now confirmed it will be offering a helpline and patient leaflets. While it is anticipated other NHS practices will have to hit 100% of pre-Covidactivity from 1 April 2022 to escape financial penalties, these practices will be given leeway of hitting 90%.

Under systems being tested dentists were allocated greater time to assess the oral health needs of patients and provide needed care. This reduced the volume of patients these practices could treat, and their patient base. Pledges were made to practices that there would be no detriment as a result of their participation in the programme.

Reverting to existing models of care has taken up to 4 years for practices that have left the programme in the past. Practices are anticipated to face severe staffing problems, aggravated by already acute recruitment problems across the service. Many practices are already facing real issues with their long sustainability, hitting an 85% activity target the BDA believe are wholly unrealistic during this phase of the pandemic.

Shawn Charlwood, Chair of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee, said: “The support offered to these pioneering practices is too little, too late. Colleagues who volunteered to find a new and better way of delivering NHS dentistry have been thrown under a bus. After committing years of effort their reward amounts to a helpline, a few leaflets, and the uncertainty of starting again, effectively from scratch.

“These NHS practices were given the time to care that all dentists require. Going back to chasing targets could take years, and there will inevitably be casualties. Patients will once again pay the price for the reckless decisions taken by government.”

A Diary of Denplan’s Clinical Director

Course Dates: Open-ended
Enrollment Dates: Enroll Anytime
Who can Enroll:
Price: FREE

About the Course

Clinical Director for Denplan and Simplyhealth is a varied and enjoyable role – from dealing with the very dry aspects of clinical governance covering both areas of the business (health cash plans on one side and dentistry on the other), to getting to meet people from all walks of the healthcare professions in some interesting places.

As Clinical Director, what my role largely entails is ensuring that as a company we provide correct clinical information to our customers and member practices, that our products cover clinically necessary services, and that our internal teams provide accurate information and advice to anybody that they speak to.

But, as the following glimpse into my day-to-day work life shall show, my job is anything but 9-to-5 and humdrum!

The following takes place over the course of 9 days, starting on Tuesday 16th November…


On Tuesday the 16th, it was the annual Mouth Cancer Action Month radio day. It’s part of a campaign that Denplan sponsors every year in partnership with the Oral Health Foundation to raise awareness of a very debilitating and life-threatening disease. It’s an event in the calendar that I always really enjoy doing, and the last couple of years we’ve done it virtually from home as opposed to going to a studio in London.

Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, and I speak to many people at various radio stations being interviewed about mouth cancer and raising awareness of the condition, making sure we spread the word and helping people to understand the signs and symptoms and what they need to do if they spot any concerns. We remind them to make sure that they make an appointment to see their dentist if they feel there is anything that is not quite right and get it checked out.

I used to find the prospect of doing these live and recorded radio days daunting, but over the years I find it much easier. You get to speak to a lot of different presenters who each have their own interview style and ideas of what they want to get across to their listeners and so some will be a little bit more light-hearted while others are much more serious and to the point.

It requires a lot of focus for a short period of time, then a short break before the next radio station requires an interview and then a lot of intensity again. It’s hard work, but it is a very satisfying thing to do.


The highlight of Wednesday was hosting a virtual meeting of our Next Gen Dentists Group. This is a fantastic group of young dentists, all aged under 35, many of whom are practice owners, and I love the meetings with them. I find it absolutely inspiring to listen to the group to understand their frustrations, but also to see their enthusiasm and positivity about the profession.

The purpose of the meeting was to begin discussing a policy paper the group intends to publish this year focused on issues of professional development and career opportunities within dentistry.

Most of my peers and people that I work closely with are of a different generation and we have our own view of the profession and where it’s going. But the whole point of this group is for us to understand the views of this younger demographic of dentists, understand what the next generation of the profession is going to want in the future, and to encourage them into leadership roles that they might not have considered before.

It was a great session, with some fascinating discussions about where dentistry is as a profession currently. Particularly on issues around recruitment and ongoing career development, which is so critical in the profession right now, particularly amongst younger dentists; and the pressures for younger dentists to be ‘Instagram friendly’ in their offer to patients.

The forthcoming policy paper promises to be an interesting read – so watch this space!


On Thursday I had the pleasure to host the CEO of Dentaid, Andy Evans, as part of our ‘Lunch & Learn’ series for colleagues here at Simplyhealth and Denplan. Part of what I do within the company is, not just clinical or dental, but also reaching out to our colleagues to help them to understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it – and our Lunch & Learn sessions are a fantastic opportunity to do this.

We’ve recently gone into partnership with Dentaid – a fantastic dental charity – which started overseas but now do a lot of work in this country in some of the most deprived areas. As a company we are very focused on our charitable giving and like to make sure that it also aligns with our purpose and, obviously, anything dental related is really important to us. Dentaid is a great match for us as it is a charity that is reaching out to those parts of the Community that can’t necessarily access dental care. It feels like a really great way for us to be able to provide some support into those areas where people are challenged with finding a dentist.

It was a great session. As always it was very relaxed, people are quite happy to ask questions and we always get nice feedback afterwards. Colleagues from across the business attend, often those who don’t work closely with the subject area but are nevertheless keen to learn more about what other areas of the business are doing. Colleagues will come to me afterwards saying, “Oh, can I find out more about that?” It always feels like a really great way of spreading the message of what we’re doing and who we are working with to an internal colleague audience, in addition to what we do externally in the media.


On Friday, I suddenly realised that I was presenting at a conference the following week, and I therefore needed to write presentation – pronto!

As always with Fridays, they are days I try to set aside for article writing – I usually write several articles a month – and to concentrate on some serious ‘big think.’ But as usual, other responsibilities creep in as Clinical Director.

Fridays can be varied in that sense, but this Friday tended to be focused on regular, scheduled meetings of our legal, risk and compliance teams to discuss the various issues of importance in their areas from a clinical perspective.

But I did, nevertheless, manage to get some time in my day for writing and thinking – so a successful day in the end.


I’m very much all about ‘unwind and recharge’ at the weekends. Weeks are so busy that I like to focus on a lot of dog walking and go swimming if I can – it doesn’t matter whether it is a pool or open water, as long as I can swim. I’m a big introvert, which people are always surprised by, but I am even more so if I’ve had a really busy week and, knowing that I was going to have a very full schedule the following week, I was keen to get in some quality quiet time to just reboot.

In addition to that, I’ve got my puppy, who is like a toddler. She’s a half golden retriever-half Malinois, seven months old, and she is an absolute joy (most of the time). I am very much a dog person, so she gets me up in the morning, keeps me active, and she’s always there for me.


Monday does tend to be a very busy day of the week. As with my usual Monday routine, I spent it checking in with a range of colleagues across the business and meeting with senior colleagues in marketing and commercial areas. As Clinical Director, I work with colleagues to ensure that everything we do is correct from a clinical point of view and that our practice sales and customer advisor teams are working to serve the needs of our customers and member dentists.


Having spent Monday largely in virtual meetings, Tuesday presented the opportunity to get out on the road again.

It was a busy day of meetings in the morning and then, in the afternoon, I headed off to London on the train to attend the British Association of Dental Nurses’ 80 + 1 drinks reception for their 80th anniversary, which obviously couldn’t happen last year and had to be postponed – hence the +1.

After 18 months of face-to-face meetings being postponed, it was great to spend an evening meeting with colleagues and peers that I respect and admire to celebrate 80 years of the BADN – an amazing milestone for such an important organisation.

Meeting my peers and colleagues is always a fantastic opportunity for me to learn, but also to share experiences and to talk about ways that we can work together to get across some of the important messages and support that’s needed across the profession.


To mark November being Mouth Cancer Action Month, we held a parliamentary reception in the Houses of Parliament to launch the Mouth Cancer Action Charter in partnership with the Oral Health Foundation.

It was an informal drop-in event where MPs and Peers could drop by to chat to us about mouth cancer, endorse the aims of the Charter, and get their picture taken with us – with food and drink thrown into the bargain!

The aim of the Charter was really to raise awareness of six key points relating to improving oral health outcomes for mouth cancer patients – from free NHS dental treatment for those currently undergoing treatment to improving cancer referral processes – and asking government and MPs to endorse it and raise awareness of the disease.

It was a different way of engaging with MPs compared to what we’ve done previously, and it was a great success on the day with really good conversations about child oral health, fluoridation, and access to dentistry.


My colleague Louis Mackenzie and I hotfooted straight from the parliamentary event up to Manchester on the train on Wednesday evening for two days of our practice advisor conference.

This is our team of practice advisors that operate across the four nations of the UK who support our quality programme, visit practices through our Excel programme and work with dental teams on training, clinical best practice and commercial matters.

They’re a fantastic group of individuals and we haven’t seen each other physically for two and a half years. Having had to cancel the last conference literally days before the first lockdown in March 2020, it was great to spend time with them. Some of the meeting included the necessary Regulation updates and drier subjects. However, we also had some positive sessions around how we can continue to work to improve the quality programme and the Excel programme. It is always so important to hear from them what clinicians, key clients and practices are saying at the coalface.

By being able to talk to dentists and understand their views first-hand, our practice advisors perform a vitally important role.

I always feel privileged to have such a diverse role and interact with so many different people across the profession, and it was so nice to be doing it person. 

About the author

Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director of Denplan, part of Simplyhealth