New dental course to help fill the gaps

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Dental technology students Marc Buchan from Peterhead and Sally Trusser from Alness attend an induction at Aberdeen Dental School

An innovative new course launched in Aberdeen today (Thursday 7 February) hopes to plug the gaps in Scotland's dental training and provision. The diploma in dental technology will use a range of learning methods to serve students who live in remote and rural areas and who are already in full-time employment. Previously, people studying for a qualification in dental technology had to travel to Edinburgh on a weekly basis, meaning many potential students from remote areas were put off because of the time and costs involved.

The new higher education diploma, open to those employed as dental technician trainees, includes a mix of online, workplace and face-to-face elements. Students will study the course on a part-time basis over three years with workplace supervision from a registered dental technician. As well as online elements, the programme also includes two days' attendance at the state-of-the-art University of Aberdeen Dental School and Hospital each month. Modules on the course include dental laboratory skills, anatomy and physiology, orthodontic technology and designing and manufacturing dental appliances.

The diploma has been developed through a collaboration between the University of the Highlands and Islands, the University of Aberdeen Dental School and Hospital, NHS Grampian and NHS Education for Scotland. It will be delivered by the University of the Highlands and Islands, which due to the dispersed nature of its campus, already provides many of its programmes through the "blended learning" approach. The course will complement the university's oral health science degree which offers a route to careers in dental hygiene and dental therapy.

Dental technicians, who manufacture, repair and provide advice on custom-made dental appliances, work in hospitals, dental laboratories and the armed forces. Following the government's drive to increase the number of dentists in Scotland, there is now a need for more technicians to support them and, with many current technicians approaching retirement, an even greater shortfall is expected in the profession.

Speaking about the diploma, course leader Keith Ewan said: "We are really excited to be launching this innovative course which will enable dental technicians to further their careers. A qualified and registered dental technician can go on to access a degree in dental technology, open their own laboratory or dental surgery and employ other dental registrants, including dental surgeons. Without the qualification, a trainee cannot work legally as the term "dental technician" is a protected title."

Ian Leslie, dean of the University of the Highlands and Islands' faculty of science, health and education, said: "This innovative course provides education in dental technology for students in the North region of Scotland and beyond. Students will have access to state-of-the-art facilities and will be supported by expertise from lecturers in various specialities on site, through a virtual learning environment and in the workplace."

Graham Orr, director of postgraduate education at NHS Education for Scotland, said: "I am delighted that we have been able to launch this qualification. It is an example of highly successful co-operation between a number of stakeholders that secures provision of dental technology training in Scotland." Ray Watkins, head of health improvement and a consultant in dental public health at NHS Grampian, added: "This new course will further expand dental teaching in Grampian and the North of Scotland."

To find out more about the University of the Highlands and Islands' diploma in dental technology, contact Claire Hay on or 01343 576 000.

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