Having qualified as Dental Nurse in 2005, I moved from working in a general dental practice to the Dental Specialities department at Derriford Hospital in 2007.
The dental department at Derriford Hospital is made up of three departments, Maxillofacial Surgery, Restorative Dentistry and Orthodontics. I joined the Dental Nursing team in the Orthodontic department, and absolutely fell in love with this branch of dentistry.
Orthodontics is the diagnosis, prevention and correction of irregularities of the teeth and jaws. The majority of work is using braces to straighten teeth. In the Trust we tend to see the patients who have more severe or complicated problems such as severe crowding, congenitally missing teeth, impacted teeth and those with cleft lip and/or palate. Our patients are mainly children, although we do treat some adults who are normally seen for a combination of orthodontics and jaw surgery.
I found working in the orthodontic department fascinating and knew I wanted to specialise in this area. Around this time, the first ever Orthodontic Therapists started to qualify from various Dental Hospitals around the country – this was a new role designed to support the work of Orthodontists.
An Orthodontic Therapist carries out many of the tasks that an Orthodontist does; taking dental records prior to and after treatment, fitting, adjusting and removing dental braces, seeing patients in an emergency with broken or damaged braces and supporting the patient with advice during their treatment. However an Orthodontic Therapist doesn’t carry out any treatment planning and must only work under the prescription of an Orthodontic Specialist or Consultant Orthodontist.
I knew that this was the qualification I wanted to achieve and set out gaining post-qualification certificates in Orthodontic Dental Nursing and the Oral Hygiene Educator certificate to be best prepared to apply for this post should one arise.
Fortunately, in 2014, the department decided to create a post for its first ever Orthodontic Therapist and after a rigorous selection day I was thrilled to gain the position of Trainee Orthodontic Therapist and started my new role in January 2015.
After a four week residential course at Bristol Dental Hospital, I spent the rest of the year working with patients at Derriford under the supervision of the two Orthodontic Consultants, and attending study days at Bristol. The course was very intensive and developing the new skills and manual dexterity required to place and adjust braces was taxing – the consultants had always made it look so easy!
The biggest part of developing my role for me though, was making the change from Dental Nurse to clinician. I had loved my time as a nurse; being on the other side of the chair was quite daunting. However, coming from a dental nursing background really makes me appreciate what a massively important part of the team the Dental Nurses are – there is no way I could do my job without the highly skilled individuals that help me. In December 2015 I obtained my Diploma in Orthodontic Therapy RCSEd and started working at Derriford Hospital as a fully qualified Orthodontic Therapist.
I find working as an Orthodontic Therapist so satisfying and really enjoy my job. I see my patients every six to eight weeks over a period of about two-years and during that time I find that I can really build a great relationship with the patient and their family.
Orthodontics is often the first time many children will experience anyone working in their mouth and on their teeth. I like to think that I can offer a gentle introduction to dentistry, as well as offering oral hygiene and diet advice that will help that child develop good habits to keep their teeth healthy throughout their life.
Seeing a child grow in confidence as their teeth straighten is so rewarding and nothing beats the sight of a beaming child (or adult!) on the day that their brace is removed and their beautiful smile is revealed.
Amanda is writing as part of the #WeCare2 campaign that will be running across our Trust communications. Look out for more from the AHPs and HCSs, on our social media pages, Trust screensavers, Daily Email, Vital Signs and much more.