Education | Published:

A novel, integrated curriculum for dental hygiene-therapists and dentists

BDJ volume 226, pages 6772 (11 January 2019) | Download Citation

Key points

  • Highlights the need for better understanding of dental hygiene-therapist roles and their importance in shared care.

  • Describes the methodology for a fully integrated undergraduate dental curriculum.

  • Demonstrates that a successful integrated curriculum requires skills and knowledge within the scope of each profession to be taught and assessed to the same standard.



In certain communities patients may struggle to find access to adequate dental treatment. One proposed strategy to help meet population need is to train more dental hygiene-therapists. However, established attitudes and hierarchies, along with a lack of clear understanding of different roles within some general practice environments has led to underutilised shared-care approaches. Integrating dentists and dental hygiene-therapists in undergraduate education may be an effective approach to promote inter-professional education, dispel inappropriate biases and hierarchies, and nurture team working from an early career stage. As such, we have developed a novel BSc Dental Therapy and Hygiene (BDHT) curriculum, which is integrated with the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) programme.


The aim of this paper is to describe how two separate BDHT and BDS undergraduate programmes have been uniquely integrated, and to share areas of best practice.


The BDHT curriculum was developed based on our established BDS programme introduced in 2013 and is novel in two respects: BDHT students complete their academic and clinical training jointly with BDS students, and are assessed and trained to the same standards; and our patient-centred, primary care clinical training model is designed to prepare BDHT graduates to work under direct access.


Key success indicators of the integrated BDHT-BDS programmes are: award of GDC sufficiency; 100% BDHT graduate employment; and 100% BDHT final year pass rate.


Inter-professional education is an established pedagogic approach to inhibit the formation of hierarchy and barriers that impede collaborative care. Our BDHT programme is the first of its kind to embed inter-professional education through the entirety of both the BDHT and BDS course structures and be entirely integrated. Further studies are required to provide quantitative and qualitative data to validate the success of our new integrated training programme. This paper presents our curriculum journey, from conception, to design, implementation and review. It describes our vision and its relevance for the future of inter-professional dental education.

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Our sincerest thanks go to the entire education team at Peninsula Dental School, without whose support and input our vision of an integrated BDHT-BDS curriculum would have remained just that. We wish to acknowledge the sheer hard work that has gone into developing the original BDS programme, as on the foundations of its success we built our new BDHT programme. Since the commencement of the BDHT programme we must acknowledge: Christopher Tredwin as head of school who has supported our vision and challenge to the conventional curriculum and Ewen McColl as clinical lead and deputy head of school; Sally Hanks for designing the professionalism modules and being instrumental in IPE in the BDHT/BDS final years; Cathy Coelho for leading EBL and BDHT audit, as well as monitoring and evaluating remediation of BDHT students; Jon Bennett for guidance in the biomedical science content and design and delivery of the year one BDHT-BDS life Sciences; Jane Collingwood for being an integral part of teaching and curriculum design within BDHT; Ruth Potterton for designing and delivering EBL; Joanne Elmes for delivering BDHT curriculum; Matthew Jerreat for supporting ISCE and exit cases; Tim O'Brien for supporting BDHT specialist visits; the 'Well Connected' team for their integral role in the community engagement modules; clinical supervisors and external speakers for expert content and support; Nicky Kilpatrick for her paediatric teaching advice and review of the manuscript; Malcolm Bruce and Natalie Sobey for designing and directing SDLE; and finally to all of our administrative team who have worked tirelessly to enable the success of the BDHT programme.

Author information


  1. University of Plymouth Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, Peninsula Dental School, Plymouth PL4 8AA

    • C. McIlwaine
    • , Z. L. S. Brookes
    • , D. Zahra
    • , K. Ali
    • , S. Zaric
    • , G. Jones
    •  & L. A. Belfield


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Correspondence to C. McIlwaine.

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