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The Online Dentist: Andrew Wilson (BDS 2011)

Dr Andrew Wilson Bristol dentist 3

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17 May 2017

Dentistry graduate Andrew Wilson (BDS 2011) is the creator of The Online Dentist, a new organisation to spread positive health messages that empower families to take control of their dental health. We talked to Andrew about his latest project and why it's about more than just teeth.

Why did you choose to study Dentistry at Bristol?

Dentistry was my mum's idea. A five-year course seemed a lifetime at 17 years old so I never thought I would actually be a dentist. But I love it. I enjoy the practical aspect of dentistry but what I really love is the relationship building. You see your patients every few months and you start to get to know them. You often meet their family, hear about their lives and you earn their trust. People are so interesting and everyone has a different story. So I'm really lucky that part of my job is just chatting and getting to know people. I chose Bristol because when I came for interview, they made me feel valued. On the way to the interview, my train was cancelled and I was over an hour late. But staff helped me, calmed me and arranged for me to still have an interview. I felt that they wanted to help me. And Bristol is a fantastic place. There's so much going on and it's a city with soul rather than just a place to live.

What did you do after graduating from Bristol?

I couldn't bear the thought of leaving Bristol. The university had prepared me well so I was able to get a job and continue to live in the city. I worked in a dental practice and started to gain experience. I built relationships with the people I was treating and realised that this was what I really enjoyed. The teeth bit is hugely important but I believe that good communication is the key to being a good dentist.

Then last year, I decided that I wanted to be a part of a bigger project. I wanted to communicate and talk to people on a bigger scale. I kept seeing stories in the papers about the number of children being admitted to hospital because of tooth decay. The stories were always negative; they never mentioned what was going to be done to prevent it. Tooth decay is a preventable disease but clearly the right information isn't get through to families who need it. The key is education and making sure that everyone knows how to care for their mouths.

So I set out to create an online resource to communicate these positive health messages. The Online Dentist offers free, impartial advice to empower families to take control of their dental health. There are articles, videos and downloads so that anyone can get all the information they need to care for their family's teeth and make informed decisions about any dental treatment they may need.

Why is there a need for an 'online dentist'?

Tooth decay is the biggest reason that children are admitted to hospital in the UK. The statistics show 46,500 children admitted to hospital in one year because of tooth decay; four times more than any other reason. I think the sugar tax next year will make a small difference but the benefits to individuals will be limited. You can't just tax people and expect them to change their behaviour. You have to communicate with people, talk to people. That's what The Online Dentist was created to do.

What is your next project?

This is really exciting. We have created a dental health syllabus for each school key stage and a huge bundle of resources so that teachers can teach about dental health. This has never been done before. It’s completely free and it launched in April.

We believe that kids must be taught about the importance of caring for their teeth. And if kids are aware, it filters through to the rest of the family. It's by no means going to solve the issue alone. Children aren't in charge of the family’s health and buying sugary food. We need to be talking to parents through the articles on The Online Dentist website too. But it's all about raising awareness and starting that conversation.

What would you say to current dental students at Bristol?

Studying Dentistry may seem quite limiting but actually you have loads of options. You could work in a practice. You could work or specialise in a hospital. There are opportunities to teach or you can even go into the business side. But don't worry too much about all that stuff at the moment. Work hard, enjoy being a student and enjoy Bristol.

For more information visit The Online Dentist, or find them on Facebook.