A personal view on education and training.

Education six themes

One of the first questions colleagues from Dental Protection ask delegates when they are delivering education is “why are you here?” The response is frequently: “To avoid being sued or avoid complaints”. It is hardly surprising that one of the most challenging events in a dental career is to be the subject of a patient complaint or a claim. For most dentists, this distressing event might arise once or twice in a career. Unfortunately, for some the frequency is significantly greater. The key to reducing or avoiding complaints or claims is, in my view, education and training.
When deciding what to include in your professional development plan to help you reduce risk, the variety of education programmes can be daunting. Should you choose areas where you have acknowledged weaknesses or the areas that interest you most? When it comes to risk, a broader approach will bring into focus a more comprehensive understanding of the various areas where such challenges arise.

What really creates risk?
Clinical competence is a key prerequisite to successful dentistry; however, the real drivers of risk, as far as litigation is concerned, are frequently referred to as predisposing factors. These will often arise from the interpersonal relationship between the healthcare provider and the patient. The relationship between negligence outcomes and litigation are poorly documented. There is, however, evidence to suggest that those dentists with poorer interpersonal and risk management skills get more complaints or claims. In a way, this is good news because these are skills that can be learned by most people. That is the approach taken by Dental Protection in designing its current educational programmes.

What are the most effective strategies?
There are six key areas for professional development that support the educational foundation built up through undergraduate training. These are illustrated in the graphic above.
In summary, six key areas of education and training can make a very significant difference to your risk profile. Most of the subjects above are optional, but if you are going to take a holistic approach to risk, they are all an important part of that professional development cycle.


  1. Crawford, M.J., et al. Systematic review of involving patients in the planning and development of health care. BMJ 2002; 325: 1263.
  2. Coulter, A., Ellins, J. Effectiveness of strategies for informing, educating, and involving patients. BMJ 2007; 335 (7609): 24-27.

Dental Protection offers risk management workshops, which are free to members, and cover these key areas of professional development. Book your place today – dentalprotection.org/ireland/events-e-learning

John Tiernan

John Tiernan BA BDentSc DGDP(UK)

John is the Director of Educational Services, for Dental Protection.