Dental Educators Collaborate Across the Pond

Dentistry Today


Three educators and clinicians from the Plymouth University Peninsula School of Dentistry in the United Kingdom recently visited the New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry to exchange ideas about and share their experiences of interprofessional learning, where students learning to be dentists train alongside other dental professional students, such as dental nurses, therapists, and hygienists, as well as other healthcare professionals such as nurses. 

“There is a growing acknowledgement that oral health is part of overall health, and so we need to take a whole body approach to healthcare delivery. At NYU, they have been developing interprofessional education between students of dentistry, nursing, and other professionals for a number of years. We could see how this could create healthcare professionals who were not only confident in their own roles, but could also liaise with each other to create a patient-centered care environment,” said Jane Collingwood, an Honorary University Fellow at Plymouth.

Plymouth offers a program that trains future dentists and dental therapists side by side from the very start of their schooling. While it’s practiced in more than 50 countries, including the United Kingdom, dental therapy is only offered statewide in Maine, Minnesota, and Vermont, but other states are now exploring its usage. In the United States, these dental therapists must graduate from an accredited school and can only perform a limited number of procedures while still under a dentist’s supervision.

“There was a lot we could bring back to Plymouth, especially given the breadth of health professions courses at this university. But it was also heartening to see where our trailblazing approach to the integration of dental and dental therapy and hygiene students could give inspiration to New York University in the future,” said Collingwood. 

Collingwood made the trip to NYU with Plymouth lecturer Clare McIlwaine to NYU thanks to a Santander Internationalisation Scholarship, awarded to help build collaborative relationships for research, skill sharing, and career development among Santander universities. Louise Belfield, BSc, PhD, also joined these educators in New York City, all with the goal of gaining experience in integrating clinical and basic science education among multiple undergraduate programs and overcoming barriers within the dental profession to interprofessional activity.

“We believe that training dental health professionals alongside one another enhances individual roles, and we found that this was the case with NYU’s interprofessional education model too,” said Clare. 

“I was particularly interested in how NYU incorporated the life science components of their courses across the integrated programs,” said Louise. “It was inspiring to see how they used their extensive research record to inform their teaching.”

“Clare, Jane, and Louise have brought a wealth of information and experience back with them from New York, all of which will help us to develop our offering still further,” said Christopher Tredwin, BDs, PhD, head of the Plymouth University Peninsula School of Dentistry. “It was heartening to hear that our colleagues at New York University were also impressed by what we have achieved so far. As a school, we constantly strive to forge relationships with colleagues around the world, and the potential for collaborative working with New York University is immense.”

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