A career in Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy
Jane Holt, a Senior Teaching Fellow in Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy at the University of Leeds, discusses her career and the recent history of the Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy profession. Jane has had experience in national reform through her involvement in panels on changes to the scope of practice. We talked about the importance of role models and mentors, improving recognition of dental hygienists and therapists, among other topics.
Jane’s interest in dental hygiene and therapy
Driven by a desire to work in a clinical setting, with adults and children, Jane made a conscious choice not to become a general nurse or dentist. Instead, Jane successfully applied to the first Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy combined diploma at The Royal London Hospital (now Barts Health NHS Trust), to pursue a career that emphasised communication and preventive shared care for patients through teamworking.
With an interest in teaching, Jane gained qualifications to do so, including a diploma in dental health education, a bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in interprofessional professional health and welfare.
Jane has had a strong influence in the profession – her work on the Nuffield enquiry panel (1993) on the provision of dental care by Dental Care Professionals (DCPs) was instrumental in reshaping the landscape of dental practice, advocating for the expanded role of dental therapists and other DCPs through international research and comparative analysis. Moreover, her involvement with the General Dental Council (GDC) from 1991 to 2001 was pivotal in shaping the profession, expanding the scope of practice for dental therapists and Dental Care Professionals (DCPs).
She finds her current recent roles within The General Dental Council as a Fitness to Practice Panel member and a Registration Assessor rewarding. As an External Examiner for three schools she has contributed to the developments of these courses in The UK. Teaching on postgraduate courses, she has delivered academic and clinical knowledge to share good practice.
Importance of mentoring
Informal mentors have played a crucial role in guiding Jane to foster self-belief. She explained various senior colleagues not only recognised her contributions but also facilitated her progress, for example by supporting study leave, professional leave. Above all they have fostered enthusiasm for the profession.
Jane later became a mentor herself, providing informal guidance and taking part in structured clinical mentoring programmes at The University of Leeds School of Dentistry. More recently Jane has worked across all programmes to support students in their future role as a professional and ethical registrant.
Her past students have gone on to pursue variety of opportunities from obtaining PhDs, to becoming senior lecturers in Dental Hygiene and Therapy, to assumed leadership roles in programmes in The UK and internationally.
Dedication and impact
Jane is responsible for undergraduate teaching and modules within the BSc Hons in Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy as year 2 lead. She prepares future oral healthcare professionals with the necessary skills including academic, communication, professionalism and clinical techniques. Jane's enthusiasm for the role is clear:
“I am able to make a positive impact on students so that they can make a difference to somebody's oral health and their general health. I also enjoy the fact that my job is always changing and evolving. There's always something new to learn and new challenges to overcome. I feel like I'm constantly developing my skills and supporting students in their development“.
What’s next for the profession?
Jane suggests with the NHS England's long-term plan advocating for increased numbers of dental therapists, the profession is poised for improved public and professional recognition.
Multiple contributions to the profession
Jane Holt's career shows how enjoyable and varied careers in Dental Hygiene and Therapy can be, especially collaboration within the dental and multi professional teams. She has also found her professional roles within British Association of Dental Therapy and as a contributor to The Dental Health Editorial board, to be worthwhile.