Torrington Dental Practice has become an early adopter of the ‘Mental Health Wellness in Dentistry’ framework, and is working with the University of Plymouth and Kings College London as part of a feasibility study on mental health and well-being in the dental profession. The intention is to use the results of the study to apply for research funding to conduct a national study across multiple centres.
TDP is also part of a collaboration with Peninsula Dental School and Health Education England (HEE) to support a Career Development Post to drive the feasibility study forward. Special Care and Community Dentist Georgia Hallett (BDS) will be based at TDP for two days a week for the next year, working on the project under the supervision of practice partner Ian Mills and Professor Rob Wilton of the University of Plymouth.
Even before the pandemic, dentistry was associated with high rates of stress, burnout and mental health issues, and COVID-19 has exacerbated the situation. According to a recent survey by the Dental Defence Union (DDU), 68% of dental professionals surveyed feel that their stress and anxiety levels have increased over the past 18 months.
“The most important resource we have is our staff, and if they are to deliver the highest quality care for our patients, we need to keep them fit, healthy and engaged” said Ian Mills. “Whilst we have support schemes in place to help dentists in crisis, the irony is that for a profession that puts a lot of focus on prevention, we haven’t looked at mental health in this way, or considered the needs of the whole team, until now. That’s why TDP was so keen to be an early adopter of the new Mental Health Wellness in Dentistry framework.”
Launched in May 2021 by the Dental Professional Alliance, the framework encourages all dental workplaces to make mental health wellness a priority. It provides clear and simple guidance on how to assess risk and build good mental health wellness for the whole team into everyday practice. A key aim is to see a trained Mental Health Wellness Lead in every dental practice in the UK, to promote positive mental health, facilitate early intervention, and signpost those in need to support.
Dental hygienist Sabina Camber was quick to volunteer as TDP’s Mental Health Wellness Lead when Ian Mills put out a request in July. As an active member and Southwest Peninsula representative of the British Society of Dental Hygienists and Therapists, she is all too aware of the negative impact of COVID-19 on the stress levels of her fellow hygienists and therapists. At a personal level too, she has become increasingly interested in positive psychology, nutrition for wellness, and physical activities for a healthy mind and body.
To ensure she has the confidence, skills, and knowledge to fulfil her role, Sabina completed training in Stress Awareness, Mental Health First Aid, and Suicide Awareness in July.
“Early intervention is key and my training has enabled me to identify early warning signs and point my colleagues in the direction of the help they need” she explained. “As the lead, I encourage them to talk about mental health wellness, and to feel comfortable doing so, ending any feelings of stigma. I aim to provide a safe space to talk at TDP, allowing the team to feel valued and, in turn, to thrive.”
Other mental health wellness initiatives introduced by TDP include a universal pay rise, the creation of a new outdoor space for the team to relax between duties, and the introduction of yoga sessions every Tuesday at the practice, which staff can also access remotely via live streaming. Further resources are planned.
Reflecting on TDPs commitment to improving mental health wellness, Ian Mills said: “By introducing the practice framework and sharing our experiences more widely via the feasibility study, we hope to be able to contribute to the improvement of mental health wellness across dentistry. With Sabina and Georgia in the driving seat, I am confident we can make mental health wellness part of everyday practice at TDP, with all the benefits that brings for our team, our patients and hopefully in time, the wider public.”
Mr Mills was kind, pleasant and reassuring, and explained everything to me, so that I knew what was going on every inch of the way. I can’t recommend him and his implant team highly enough.
Super helpful, friendly, clean, efficient and brilliant at informing us of procedures & treatment. We never feel rushed or have to wait too long. They have made the dentist experience a positive one for our children – who are always excited to go!
I would rate this dentist 1000 stars if I could! Everyone there is so friendly and smiley! I had my teeth done by John Cato and Paula and what can I say. Both of them made me feel so relaxed even though I normally hate the dentist they have made this all change! I couldn’t thank them both enough.
It’s nearly two months since my treatment for an implanted bridge concluded and I could not be more pleased. The treatment was excellent, the care by Ian Mills and his team was superb and the teeth look fantastic.
Rhys Gabe is an incredible guy. After 30 odd years of avoiding the dentist through fear I actually now enjoy going thanks to this man. I cannot recommend him highly enough to nervous and anxious patients.