As an Oral Health Educator (OHE), I find that everyone (the dentists included) looks to me for the most up-to-date information about oral health products. This means that I have to stay informed about the latest developments and changes.
Now, I don't know about anyone else, but since qualifying as an OHE I have kept my eyes open for sources of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and affordable courses to ensure that my knowledge and skills are maintained and updated. I have found that this is an area in which CPD is severely lacking!
Luckily, in modern day society there is a wealth of information available on the internet. In the fabulous world of Twitter and Facebook, finding the most up-to-date information and the latest trends is easy, and there are also relevant articles in some of the amazing dental publications which are available. Of course, this is all non-verifiable CPD! For my own development and to ensure that I am giving my patients the very best, I want something more substantial and verifiable! I am especially keen to do this now that access to oral health education is permissible under direct access rules.
Let's have a look at the potential sources of CPD that we have at present ...
Oral health tool kit
This is the basis for all oral health education - it's like a bible to us! It outlines the main messages that all members of the dental team should be emphasizing, and provides detailed advice on what information and guidance OHEs need to be providing to our patients.
The tool kit covers tooth-brushing guidance for all ages. It gives additional guidance for patients with special needs, perio or caries. It provides fluoride advice, including treatments and dosages. It also includes advice on stopping smoking, on alcohol misuse, on frequency of sugar intake (including sugars in medicines), and on general diet and nutrition.
If you haven’t seen a copy, you can download it from:
Scientific basis of oral health
This is similar to the evidence-based toolkit, and gives guidance on the most important oral health messages. Again, if you haven't seen a copy, you can download it from:
Both of these documents offer a wealth of important information. Even if you've read them before, I highly recommend reading them regularly to refresh your knowledge. It's so easy to forget or overlook some details when we are constantly developing our knowledge and skills.
GSK Talking Points
These are a series of lectures held around the country, arranged by the makers of Sensodyne, Aquafresh, Corsodyl, and Biotene. Anyone who has an area representative from GSK may already be aware of Talking Points and the fantastic series of team training sessions they can deliver, usually in the form of a "Lunch & Learn". They cover sensitivity, acid wear, perio and the Aquafresh Kids ‘Better Brushing’ programme. If you haven't experienced them, I would highly recommend booking places for the whole team.
To view the venues for the Talking Points tour and to book your place, go to:
Aquafresh have an interactive site at:
I've found some useful resources here in the past. Some of the websites of market leaders (such as Aquafresh) have a resources section for teachers, where lesson plans and information can be downloaded in line with the syllabus for Key Stages 1 and 2.
This is a site from the US, but there are some great experiment ideas on here for if you are interacting with groups of children.
I happened to find this website by accident when searching for resources:
It's a Scottish oral health programme provided by NHS Education Scotland, and I have to say it looks very interesting. Everyone taking part in Childsmile is specifically trained to deliver the programme, but it also appears to be backed up with regular CPD, so those involved will maintain and further develop their knowledge.
I also find I get some useful bite-size pieces of information from social networking sites such as Twitter. I have found this to be useful as I can choose who I want to follow (such as the British Dental Health Foundation, BDHF) who will drip-feed information. There are also networking groups being set up on Facebook. I came across one a few months ago now - a couple of ladies were chatting on the British Association of Dental Nurses (BADN) Facebook page about their OHE studies, and from there they decided to set up an Oral Health Education group where DCPS could share ideas, discuss their studies and provide general peer support.
So, where do we go from here? I am sure that many OHEs feel the same. With the impending changes in NHS contracts putting an emphasis on prevention, there should arguably be better access and training for those expected to carry out this important role. In particular, nurses who have previously qualified as OHEs but have not really had the chance to use their qualifications and want to "get back in the saddle" would really benefit from training to help them refresh their knowledge and skills. This additional competence (and confidence) would be of great benefit to patients, too.