A member of the College’s Career Pathway Reference Group and Advisory Strategy Group, orthodontic & maxillofacial laboratory manager, Andrea Johnson, explains how the College of General Dentistry will benefit and support every member of the dental team.

Who am I? That is a good question, I am currently a highly specialised orthodontic technician, orthodontic & OMFS laboratory manager, deputy clinical governance lead, quality improvement coach, chair/founder of registered charity Den-Tech, editorial board member of the Dental Technician magazine, advisory & reference group member of CGDent and a part time masters student. I have previously served as a STEM ambassador, Chair of the OTA, a DTA council member, have taught dental technology in various education establishments, I lecture both nationally and internationally at conferences and events and generally get involved in trying to further and support my profession wherever and whenever I can.

Is this who I have always been? No. I actually retrained into dental technology in my early 30’s. I must admit that it was a little scary in some respects going back to being a student and knowing I would be one of the eldest in the cohort. However, I needn’t have feared because I was welcomed with open arms and treated as just one of the group. Having said that, I did end up mothering them all to some degree!

My career in dental technology has been relatively straight forward. I started out in a small private denture laboratory and then after a couple of years moved into the hospital service, training further in orthodontic technology, and have not looked back since. I didn’t realise at the time just how much I would enjoy the challenges I would face in the field of orthodontics, especially the more complex patient cases we see in the hospital service.

When I started at my first hospital-based post, my then manager insisted that I become a member of the Orthodontic Technicians Association (OTA) and attend their annual conference. He realised the value of contact with fellow technicians from other labs and the networking opportunities these events provide. Little did I know at that time where that would lead, but I am very grateful for the nudge, because after only two years as a member I was approached by the then chair of the OTA and was asked to present at their conference and subsequently to sit on the council. Ultimately, I spent over 8 years on the council serving in a variety of roles including the OTA’s first female chairperson.

My time with the OTA gave me the opportunity to engage with professionals and regulators from across dentistry in a variety of settings, but the common theme I always noticed was the inequalities in the opportunities and engagement offered to our various groups within dentistry and the outdated hierarchy clearly still very present.

Throughout my working life, I have found that the only truly positive and productive way forward is through a strong team-working ethic, resulting in effective output and higher levels of job satisfaction for all team members.

These are the reasons that I was very excited and honoured to be approached to work with the newly-forming College of General Dentistry, to be given the opportunity to work with like-minded, professionals from across dentistry and help define the dental college of the future that we all want and most definitely need.

A college that will treat every member of the team as an equal, that will recognise the incredibly important role that each and everyone of us plays in achieving the very best in patient care and outcomes.

So how will this be achieved? One of the key and very exciting steps is the evolution of the College’s Career Pathways for each of the dental groups. The Career Pathways are being designed with parity, between all dental team groups, with equivalent progression, recognised associated post nominals and membership status regardless of our role within the profession. It will be our experience, skill, ability, training and education that will determine our position and standing within the College, allowing all to stand proudly shoulder to shoulder with our peers.

We have a very dedicated group of representatives from across the profession working on these pathways and they are looking fantastic already. Although there will still be some tweaking needed to complete the pathways after the College has launched, they will be integral to the College membership structure, with regular reviewing to ensure they remain relevant for all the years ahead.

In short, I have real belief and faith in what the College is determined to achieve, and although I have outlined only a tiny part of what will be a clearly defined membership structure for the full dental team, I urge you all, in the strongest possible way, to join the College and be proud to be part of something amazing.

You may also be interested in reading blogs from Dr Heather Mitchell special care community dentist, and Professor Avijit Banerjee, Chair in Cariology & Operative Dentistry at Guy’s, who are both part of the Career Pathways development team.