What can we learn from New Zealand’s dental sector?


Emilee Walby has a decade of experience working as a dental professional. She is dually qualified in dental hygiene and therapy in New Zealand, and registered as a dental hygienist in the UK. She has led dental hygiene teams in practice, been a CPD officer for the New Zealand Dental Hygienists’ Association and worked in regulation for the Dental Council New Zealand. She holds a Bachelor of Oral Health and a Master of Public Health from the University of Otago. Emilee is a passionate advocate of removing barriers to achieving optimal oral health and promoting dental health throughout the lifespan.


Here she shares her experiences and compares the dental sector in the UK with that of New Zealand and explains how she will be working with dental professionals here:


“I moved to the UK from New Zealand last August and it is fascinating to compare and contrast the dental sectors in two countries that have a similar type of health system. In New Zealand, most dentistry is private so if someone cannot afford to to go the dentist, there is a real barrier to obtaining treatment. However, both hygienists and therapists enjoy greater autonomy in New Zealand, while direct access in the UK requires much more prescriptive rules and guidance that hygienists and therapists must work under.


I joined Philips Oral Healthcare last April as the company‘s philosophy is one I align with. While my objective is to help improve health on a national scale with a view to global health, the company has the desire to improve the health of 2.5 billion people worldwide by 2030. We are without a doubt moving into an era of digital health and with this we need private sector companies to support and collaborate with the public sector to realise global health goals.


As one of the company’s Educators I work hand in hand with practitioners to provide tailored dental education. This includes using the dental expertise of the company’s team in educating corporate groups, associations, and universities on a range of oral health topics to ensure as many people as possible receive continued education and support whenever possible. As part of this educational programme, I recently presented the first webinar in a five-part series for Colosseum Dental aimed at hygienists and therapists, which focuses on the practical management of periodontal disease in general dental practice.


With my clinical dental background founded in New Zealand, I have seen more collaboration between dentists and hygienists with a model based on team work and partnership, as opposed to a more hierarchical structure where the hygienist and therapist are heavily reliant on the dentist’s directives. In my opinion, this mind-set needs to evolve further in the UK to fully capture the team approach and utilise the unique skillset of each dental professional to provide greater patient centred care, but I am positive it is heading that way over time. There are quite a few dental hygienists and therapists paving the way for confident and empowered practice and asserting their own brand and place in the dental team, and it is wonderful to see.


The NHS offers a great way to provide access to dental care across the broader population and this is where the UK really supersedes the New Zealand dental system. There is no NHS equivalent for people who cannot afford dental care in New Zealand, and as a result cost is a huge barrier to most people. However, I think that to provide more futureproofing in keeping NHS dentistry functioning in the UK, regulators and industries should allow review and remodel how they can allow more dental professionals to provide NHS treatments and use the concept of direct access in a more effective way.”



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