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The Social Construction of Dentists: A review of the aims, content and ethos of dental education 

Project details

First supervisor: Dr Sasha Scambler

Second supervisor: Dr Koula Asimakopoulou

Sponsor: n/a

Funding available: Self-funded.

Duration of award: 3 years if full-time.

Mode of study: Full-time or part-time.

Start date:  Open until suitable candidate is found.

Application deadline:  Open until suitable candidate is found.

Reference number:  2021/DOCS/05.

Project description

There is wide recognition that dentistry is changing and that the skills and knowledge needed by people training to be dentists is also changing.  A growing body of researchers are now looking at workforce planning and shaping the workforce of the future with a focus on the mix of skills and professions needed within the dental team (see for example Wanyonyi et al. 2014). 

There are also plenty of papers looking at the different ways in which dental students can best be taught the skills needed (see for example: Fincher & Shuker 2001, McAndrew et al. 2015; Reissman et al. 2015) at who they should be taught with (Nadershahi et al. 2012) and at professionalism within dentistry (see for example Trathen & Gallagher 2009). 

But pedagogical concerns and workforce planning are only part of the picture.  The focus on providing patient centred dental care, coupled with an increased emphasis on prevention and widening understanding of the unequal distribution of oral health problems and related risk behaviours, all pose challenges to traditional paternalistic and/or business oriented models of dental care and require a change in mindset alongside the changing skillset.       

In 1992 Entwhistle asked whether we are creating ‘socially responsible’ dental professionals, and concluded that we are not.  She suggested that dental schools currently fail to turn out service-oriented professionals with awareness of contextual barriers to care such as poverty, and the provision of care in a market society.  It is unclear whether this is because of the proclivities of the students who choose to become dentists or as a result of the way in which students are educated and socialised as they move through their undergraduate dental curriculum. 

Recent research, however, suggests that the lack of social responsibility is still an issue (Dharamsi et al. 2014) with concerns centring on the implications of dentistry as a business and the need to balance care with finances.  The GDC requires that a range of relevant bodies of work including public Health, sociology, psychology and the dental care needs of a range of vulnerable groups are taught within the undergraduate dental curriculum and yet concerns remain about the future workforce and their willingness to engage in issues around inequality and vulnerability in relation to dental care. 

This raises questions about the ethos underlying dental education.  What kinds of dentists are we trying to create? 

Person specification

  • An interest in social and behavioural sciences would be an advantage.
  • An interest in dental education.
  • Research skills.

Research training

 Candidates will develop and enhance their skills in:

  • Qualitative research training.
  • Quantitative research skills development.

To view entry requirements and further general information, see Dental and Health Sciences Research MPhil/PhD prospectus page.

Next steps

Please apply online at following these steps:

  1. Register a new account/login.
  2. Once logged in, select Create a new application.
  3. Enter ‘Dental and Health Sciences Research MPhil/PhD (Full-time)/(Part-time)' under Choose a programme. Please ensure you select the correct mode of study.
  4. Select a start date from the list under Entry requirements on this webpage.
  5. Please note: Applicants must include the project reference number (2021/DOCS/05) in the 'Research proposal' and 'Funding (point 5)' sections of the application.

Applications must be received by the deadline specified in this listing.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss projects with the first supervisor prior to submitting an application. 

Contact for further information

Name: Dr Sasha Scambler


Related Centre: Centre for Host-Microbiome Interactions

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