The heart of the matter

Developing the new 'Standards for the Dental Team' has been a lengthy and in-depth process, but one that we think has produced standards which have patient protection at their heart and provide more clarity on what we expect of dental professionals.

The current standards were first published in May 2005. At that time, dental nurses, dental technicians, clinical dental technicians and orthodontic therapists were not registered and the needs of those groups were not necessarily considered in the drafting of the current standards.

It has taken nearly three years to review the standards and produce standards for the dental team. We believe it has been worth the hard work. The Standards Review Working Group was established in February 2011 to oversee the review and was clear from the outset that the development of the new standards should be firmly based on evidence. The project involved a mixture of both qualitative and quantitative research methods, registrant and stakeholder engagement and targeted qualitative research as well as consultation on the document itself.

The first stage of the research involved asking patients and the public what they expected from their dental professionals in relation to standards. The next stage echoed these questions with registrants and stakeholders and also asked what they would like to see from the new standards as well as what problems they had encountered with the current version. The final stage involved asking for views on the format and content of the drafts.

We listened to what people said thoughout the process and made key changes on the basis of that feedback. Each section of the new document includes the relevant patient expectations. We heard about the importance of communication from both patients and registrants and we now have a standalone principle on communication. We were told that we needed to produce guidance on using social networking sites like Facebook and that is exactly what we've done. Registrants also told us that they wanted more clarity and we have strengthened the language and included more prescriptive guidance. 'Must' and 'should' are used throughout the document so that registrants know exactly what we expect from them.

Other changes include:

  • Standalone principle on personal behaviour;
  • Greater emphasis on softer skills; and
  • New requirements to display indicative prices for treatment.

As with the current standards, all registrants have an individual responsibility to behave professionally and to follow the principles at all times. If a complaint is made about a registrant, their behaviour/conduct will be measured against the standards and guidance.

The new standards have been approved by Council and will take effect on 30 September 2013. You can view them on the GDC webste at

Hard copies are being printed and will be sent to all registered dental professionals by the end of August 2013. ‘Standards for the Dental Team’ will be supplemented by a number of additional guidance documents, including guidance on using social media, which will be available online in September this year.

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