Written by Richard Smith on November 16, 2018 14:22:18It’s a good time to be an oral health educator, says Professor Peter Pomeroy from the University of Tasmania, and he’s right.
In a new report published by the Australasian Institute of Oral Health and Disability, Professor Pomerow explains that the oral health workforce is increasingly becoming a critical part of oral health management.
“For many, it is the most basic, least expensive and most effective tool to help us get through our flu and other challenges,” he says.
“The fact that we are seeing people using their oral health skills to help with everything from managing chronic cough to managing their dental health is something that needs to be taken seriously.”
He points out that the job of oral healthcare providers is a highly skilled one, and the role of the oral healthcare workforce is to help them understand the basics of oral hygiene, oral hygiene products and dental care.
Professor Pomeroys report also looked at how oral health professionals were using the digital skills of computers, mobile phones, tablets and smartwatches.
“This is an area where we are starting to see the impact of technology in a very positive way, with people being able to share their oral knowledge on the internet, and in a way that is more accessible,” he explains.
“And it’s also important that people are able to access the information in a more professional manner.”
Professor Pomors report found that, over the past five years, there have been a number of positive changes in the way people are using their digital skills.
In 2015, the National Oral Health Workforce Partnership (NORW) began using tablets to record information on oral hygiene.
This was in part due to the health ministry’s commitment to make oral health a priority area for its workforce.
“I think what we’re seeing is that people have realised that the digital tools are there to help and to get them into the habit of being able, in the same way as they were able to be in the habit when they were younger, to engage in their oral skills, and that’s what we’ve seen in terms of people sharing their oral information online and in social media,” Professor Pomor explains.
And this year has been particularly good.
“In the first quarter of this year, we have had the biggest year-on-year increase in the number of people using digital tools,” he adds.
“That is not necessarily a good sign for people in the oral hygiene profession because the use of digital tools has a huge impact on the profession.”
Professor Peter Pomoring says digital literacy is a key component to the oral care profession in Australia.
“It’s an important aspect of the workforce in that they are able and willing to access information and use it to improve their oral care and to make sure that they do not have any health issues, and to prevent any further complications,” he said.
“They have a responsibility to educate themselves about what’s going on, and how to do things better.”
The report also found that while there were some major barriers to digital literacy, it’s important to acknowledge them.
“We can’t get ahead of it,” Professor Peter explains.
“We need to keep going and continue to improve the skills that we have, and keep pushing to get better and better.”