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The Importance of Continuing Professional Development in Dentistry

Info: 1815 words (7 pages) Nursing Essay
Published: 27th Nov 2020

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Tagged: dentalprofessional development


Continuing professional development (CPD), in reference to dentistry, is referred to as “the mechanism by which dental practitioners develop their skills and knowledge and maintain up-to-date practice” (Barnes et al., 2012). The main aims of CPD is to protect the public and patients, as well as supporting dental professionals in maintaining and improving their skills and knowledge. This in turn can help to enhance the quality of care given to patients and can help the dental professionals themselves in being confident in their knowledge and skill set (GDC, 2013). You are required by law to do 250 hours of CPD in a 5-year period. At least 75 of these hours needs to be verifiable i.e. it needs to meet the GDP’s definition of CPD and provide documentary evidence of this and have written information from the provider confirming that you have undertaken the CPD (GDC, 2013). Continuing professional development is important for career-long knowledge and understanding as the skills are required for one’s whole career. New technologies are continuously being brought out such as hand-held X-ray machines as opposed to wall mounts and new ways of carrying out particular procedures (such as carrying out a root canal) are being developed, and CPD can make dentists aware of these new technologies and aid in acquiring the knowledge in which to use the equipment and carry out the procedures. Therefore, making life for the dentist easier, as well as for the patient (Barnes et al., 2012).

How CPD is Assessed

There are several different ways in which to carry out CPD. For example, hands-on courses (the main choice, which includes seminars and lectures), reading journals or books, e-learning, distance learning etc. (Barnes et al., 2012). Dental professionals will be required to keep and maintain a personal development plan (PDP). In your PDP portfolio, activities undertaken must be categorised as so: A for communication, B for management, C for knowledge and D for skills (Royal College of Surgeons, 2019). Activities that fall into category A, which are undertaken in order to improve on or maintain the GDC required standard for effective communication with patients, others in the dental team and when dealing with general concerns and complaints from the patients as well as raising concerns if a patient or patients are at risk. Examples of CDP specific courses for this area could be lectures or seminars on communication skills, consent, complaints handling, raising concerns and safeguarding. Additionally, activities that fall into category B focus on effective management of one’s self and the others in the dental team, and development of leadership skills. Examples of courses to attend could be on effective practice management, business management, team working and leadership skills. Activities that fall under category C would be for the maintenance and development of skills and knowledge in the dental professionals’ specific field of practice. For example, clinical and technical areas of study, radiography, cross infection control, medical emergencies, emerging technologies and treatments. Moreover, category D activities for CPD can also focus on maintenance of behaviours and attitudes in relation to patients and putting their interests first. For example, courses can be taken specifically relating to ethical and legal issues, professional behaviours and equality and diversity training (GDC, 2018). The GDC may not directly evaluate individuals’ PDPs, but it will definitely require evidence of completion of the portfolio. According to Ucer et al.’s research (2014), there doesn’t seem to be a concrete way to assess the quality of CPD. Although, a common form of assessment can be a certificate or an award for the specific type of CPD performed. Additionally, continuing education (CE) points or transferrable credits for courses can be given that meet the standards of the GDC. Feedback from the course providers can also serve as quality control for the dental professional.

Examples of CPD Activities



Short training courses

Study clubs/ journal clubs

Mentoring activity (discussions/supervision by experienced colleagues in the workplace)

Peer review


Clinical audit

Internet/journal reading

Problem based learning activity


Distance learning

Figure 1. Table adapted from Ucer et al. (2014), depicting the common types of CPD activities that could be carried out by a dental professional in order to maintain and improve on their dental skills.


One drawback about CPD in dentistry is that the individual has the choice of what form of CPD to choose from. This can be counteractive as some activities will be chosen on the basis of convenience or interest as opposed to their learning needs. This has been shown to have an effect on the standard of CPD. For example, seminars were seen as the most useful way to carry out CPD as it has a practical element in which the acquired knowledge can be applied, compared with journal reading which doesn’t necessarily allow for active application of knowledge. This is reinforced by the fact that when CPD is undertaken over a long period, is interactive and includes on the job application, it is a lot more effective than more passive forms of CPD. Additionally, if practitioners only undertake one form of CPD, this can also be less beneficial than when multiple forms are carried out. For example, reading journal articles, attending seminars/lectures and carrying out problem-based learning are more effective than only reading journals or only attending seminars. It is not acceptable to only know what is up to date for best practice, the dental professional needs to be able to reflect on and engage in the process. Furthermore, it is crucial that the practitioners learning environment is conducive for the application of learning and that the workplace promotes learning. This is important as other practitioners surrounding in the workplace can encourage and share knowledge and/or be a mentor to those around them (Barnes et al., 2012).


Despite some of the drawbacks, with appropriate implementation and management of the PDP portfolio, CPD has the opportunity to encourage dental professionals to develop their skills and understanding in their particular field of expertise. CPD is beneficial as it allows for the publics’ expectations of the dental professional to be met. It gives the public/ patients more confidence in the competency of their dentist and that the best possible treatment plan will be implemented as a result of their continuing professional development (Eaton et al., 2011). Another benefit of compulsory CPD in dentistry is that all individuals are required to complete 250 hours in a 5-year period (as stated previously). This is beneficial as it means that all individuals will have completed the same number of hours and it brings in some form of uniformity into the assessment of CPD. Although there are concerns about the imbalance in type of CPD activity undertaken, Barnes et al. (2012) found that 88% of practitioners chose to do a hands-on-course. This is positive as hands-on-courses are seen as the most favourable way to acquire knowledge for CPD.


In conclusion, CPD is a valuable means in which to maintain dental practitioners’ competency and skill set. Compulsory implementation of CPD in 2008 for dental professionals, is a favourable way in which to ensure that the individuals are keeping up to date with their knowledge and safeguarding the needs of the patients and the public. It is essential that these skills are maintained as it allows for new ways of carrying out procedures that are more beneficial to the patient to be done. Additionally, it allows for the dental practitioner to make sure that they remember how to carry out various procedures that they may have not conducted in a certain amount of time.



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