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Oral Health 2020

Why postgrad dental training has to be state-of-the-art

iStock / Getty Images Plus / KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Stephen Porter

Director and Professor of Oral Medicine, UCL Eastman Dental Institute

With oral diseases becoming more diverse, there is rising demand for dental practitioners who can offer complex care. This, however, requires high quality postgraduate training.


Dentists who wish to enhance their skills and gain specialist knowledge benefit greatly from postgraduate training, notes Professor Stephen Porter. This provides them with the skills and confidence to provide patients with a high quality of care at a time when oral disease is becoming more diverse.

“Disorders that interfere with someone’s ability to use their mouth to speak, eat, socialise and enjoy life, are on the increase,” says Porter, Director and Professor of Oral Medicine at the UCL Eastman Dental Institute, the London-based academic centre for postgraduate dentistry as well as basic and translational research. “There’s rising demand for dental practitioners who can safely provide effective care and treat complex disease.”

At some point, newly qualified dentists will have to decide what kind of dentistry they wish to practice. Do they want to be a general dental practitioner? Specialise a bit in one area or become a specialist as recognised by the General Dental Council?

“If it is to specialise, or become a true specialist a postgraduate course or programme is essential, as these offer concentrated teaching and experience from genuine experts in the field,” says Professor Porter.

Keeping up with the rapid pace of dental advances

Dentistry is a fast-moving area of healthcare, which means students and teachers must keep up with the latest state-of-the-art technology and techniques.

The UCL Eastman Dental Institute recently invested in £25million state-of-the-art facilities with skills classrooms, new laboratories and a research facility dedicated to clinical, basic and translational research in oral and dental diseases.

However, says Porter, while new facilities are important, the quality of teaching and research staff is critical, as is collaborating with colleagues across multiple fields and disciplines.

“High quality, research active academic staff give students the best learning experience — and that, ultimately, will benefit the patient and their families which always has to be the primary aim.”

“There’s a commercial imperative for an educational establishment, like ours, to be at the cutting-edge, because it allows us to attract the top staff and the best postgraduate students,” explains Porter.

“It’s also an exciting place to be, and to know that, from a research standpoint, when a new oral disease is identified we can quickly implement research to provide solutions that will make a positive difference to people’s lives.”

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