The opportunities available following completion of the OHE qualification will be different for everyone. Some nurses will have their own clinics within their practice, while others might use their qualification as a stepping stone to get into university to train as a hygienist/ therapist. Whatever your goal is, make sure that you try to use your qualification to its full potential.
Here at Dental Nurse Network (DNN), we would like all trained OHEs to get involved in community work. After completing my OHE qualification, I decided to use my skills outside of the practice. I have been visiting school and nursery now for about three years. Knowing that I am making a difference to the oral health of my local community has been extremely rewarding. It is also a good advertisement for my dental practice and shows that we are committed to oral health and are trying to make a difference.
DNN has teamed up with the Dentaid Bright Bites Oral Health promotion programme in British schools. We sponsor a minimum of 1000 children per year, and anyone who completes their OHE training with DNN can apply for sponsorship to promote good oral health in their local communities. You can view more information about Bright Bites here.
If you are a trained OHE and want to get involved in Bright Bites, you can use all Dentaid’s resources HERE and apply for sponsorship directly with Dentaid. Sponsorship includes toothpaste, toothbrushes, balloons and wristbands for the children and a t-shirt for yourself. If you have completed your OHE qualification but have not done so with DNN, you should contact Dentaid directly.
Why we need to get involved in oral health promotion
Tooth decay figures for 2016/2017 have been released, and the rate of tooth decay in children has increased across the country, costing the NHS millions in hospital admissions. As tooth decay is easily preventable, young children suffering with toothache and needing tooth extractions could be avoided – but unfortunately, not all parents/carers have the relevant knowledge. This is where you can help.
I’m aware that everyone lives busy lives, and that the suggestion below is usually undertaken on a voluntary basis – but you could go to your local primary school/nursery just once a year to teach these children and their teachers about the importance of good oral hygiene. Not only is this a great opportunity for you, but it’s an amazing way to help others and is good advertising for your practice.
Working in the community
If you have never worked in this environment before and teaching a group of children takes you out of your comfort zone, it can be a bit daunting. However, the sense of achievement is amazing – just a few hours of your time can give these children an awareness of the effect their diet is having on their teeth and can provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to have a better understanding of good toothbrushing technique.
I love helping my local community – getting to know what they have been learning, and discussing topics like toothbrushing and diet with children who have not necessarily been to the dentist before or for some reason are nervous or scared about going. Simply explaining to these children what a dental examination is and answering any questions they might have will really help them. Further, you can educate their teachers and potentially their parents so that they can keep reinforcing the information with the children. I have personally always been very fortunate when I have delivered education on oral health – all the children and staff have always been very welcoming and eager to learn, and the children have been very chatty! It can be a bit overwhelming the first time you do it, so if you are a bit nervous, take a work colleague with you for support.
Why your practice should support it
Going out into your local community to deliver education on oral health is an excellent way for your practice to gain new patients. You can take a practice leaflet with you to explain which practice you are from. It also looks good in the eyes of the CQC that you are going above and beyond to help others and get the important message about good oral health across in your community.
All you are asking your practice for is a few hours in a day to complete these visits. They could allow you to do this if a member of staff is free or when the dentist is on annual leave.
Written by Emma Leather RDN, PTLLS, TAQA, OHE.
Emma is a tutor, assessor, internal moderator and writer for Dental Nurse Network. She is passionate about professional growth and is currently completing a level 4 certificate in internal quality assurance.