dental clinical academicsThe number of dental clinical academics is on the rise in dentistry, recovering after a period of decline.

The Dental Schools Council (DSC) survey found that the number of clinical academic staff, those that combine teaching and research with clinical practice, has risen by 139.9% since they were first included in the survey in 2007.

Despite this, the survey highlighted the difficulties in recruiting to vacancies, particularly in research-active roles at the lecturer and senior lecturer (or reader) levels.

‘Dental schools can be very proud of the work they have done to bring the numbers of dental clinical academics back to a strong level,’ Professor Callum Youngson, chair of the DSC, says.

‘This is of significant benefit to the quality of dental care in the UK.

‘At the same time, more needs to be done to highlight the champions of clinical academic dentistry, particularly their important research, which drives innovation in dental care.

‘We must hold up the role-models to encourage other gifted clinical academic dentists to make contributions to the future of dentistry, as well as to make clear how important dentistry is within broader clinical academia and its key role in public health.

‘The onus is on us to demonstrate how the dental clinic academic team’s expertise is a resource to be used by those in positions of power – for the benefit of dentistry, patient care and society.’

‘Not quite mission accomplished’

The BDA has welcomed the recovery, but has called for more to be done to tackle the national shortage of dental academics.

According to the survey, last year 6.4% of all academic posts were vacant, and eight out of the 18 dental schools commented on the difficulties experienced when trying to recruit for a specialty or grade.

‘It is welcome news that the decline in clinical academic staffing levels has bottomed out, but this is not quite mission accomplished,’ Dr Giles McCracken, chair of the BDA’s Central Committee for Dental Academic Staff (CCDAS), said.

‘We are still grappling with a national shortage of dental academics.

‘While roads appear to be opening up for those who want to focus on learning rather than research, clinical teachers suffer from the lack of a visible and attainable career pathway.

‘The Dental Schools Council has started fulfilling its duty to sell academia as an attractive option, by showcasing high profile case studies such as Jimmy Steel’s impact upon of dentistry.

‘We must ensure the skill sets we are building into the next generation of junior clinical academics fit the needs of tomorrow’s senior posts.’