Black History Month:
An insight into Dentistry in the UK

2020 was a HUGE year for the Black Lives Matter movement, unless you were living under a rock, I'm sure you must've seen it. 
We saw demonstrations with hundreds of thousands of people, chanting "Black Lives Matter" on the street's of the world's major cities, but what happens now? A year later, have things changed?

Black History Month and Black Lives Matter, a short introduction.

Black history month in the UK was first celebrated in October 1987. Ever since it has been a month of celebration and recognition of the black culture and their contributions the UK. Throughout the month of October, there are events and workshops nationwide which celebrate the black culture. If you go on Black History Month's website you can find their resource pack, highlights, and even a magazine

So if you didn't know much about it before, now you have no excuses! 

We have all heard the phrase, "Black Lives Matter", but do you know where it comes from or what the Black Lives Matter movement is?

The UK had the largest Black Lives Matter protests in the world last summer, outside the US, which quickly turned the spotlight onto historical and systemic racism in the UK.  

Black Lives Matter is a decentralised political and social movement protesting against incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against black people.

The BLM movement represents positive action towards equality and inclusivity. And yes, it is remarkable that all of these people showed up and protested against racism but let's not forget why they had to be there in the first place. The Black Lives Matter protests remind us that, as a society, prejudices and unconscious bias still exist throughout the world.

So, how does this inequality impact UK dentistry, and what lessons can we learn?

To find out more about who they are and what they do click here for BLM UK, and here for BLM.

Spotlight: Dentistry in the UK

According to the British Dental Journal (BDJ) Black British dentists and dental care professionals (DCPs) are greatly under-represented in the UK workforce. With black prospective students having a 19% acceptance rate into dentistry, compared with 54% white and 41% Asian.

We researched and found a couple outstanding professionals who told their story and issues they have faced in the dental industry.
Think about what made you choose the career you pursued or perhaps that you want to pursue. 

A qualitative study examining the impact of role models in the early stages of a dentist's career reported positive role models significantly influence their professional development.

With only 0.8% of UK orthodontists of Black ethnicity, it is unlikely that any Black students will, have a family member in the profession, receive a talk at school from a Black DCP or have a Black orthodontist fit their braces.

If a kid does not see anybody that looks like him in the dentistry industry, how is he able to visualise himself as a dentist?

Dr. Olumide Ojo- Owner and principal dentist at Refresh Dental in Twickenham, London, spoke to Dentistry about his experience.

"Dentistry isn’t any different to any other part of society. It reflects what society is. When I was in dental school, I was one of very few black people in the school and that may or may not be representative of society. In my dental school, out of around 500 or 600 students there were about three or four black people."

He stresses how Dentistry is inclusive in some ways but that there is still a long way to go. He highlighted the importance of black mentors and that if it wasn't for his two mentors, Martin Wanendeya and Nik Sisodia, he would've never opened his own clinic. 

"I think at the end of the day, you often gravitate towards people who you have similarities with. It was very inspiring to see a black man be so successful in practice." he said.

He also has mentored a couple of young black dental students, so if you're looking for a mentor you know where to find him!

Chinwe Akuonu, a dental hygienist, told Dentistry about her experience and she wants to draw to your attention to the lack of black voices as experts in the profession. When she was in her final year at King's College London, she said that in her cohort only 6% of the students were black. 

She told Dentistry:
"If we are already a minority at a training level, we definitely will be at a professional level."

According to Berryman's 1983 'pipeline' model, the success of minority groups in specific disciplines or professions is dependent on their ability to move through three key phases. First, gaining access into the profession; second, their successful participation in and completion of professional education and third, how they progress into and develop their career.

To be able to tackle this problem, it is crucial for the Dental industry to give more visibility to black dental role models. More importantly, if you ever witness or experience racism, please do not stay silent. Your voice can go a long way.

To find out more about the experiences of Chinwe and Dr. Olumide click here.

If you want more information on the dental industry in the UK, check out these resources:
Black Lives Matter: the impact and lessons for the UK dental profession
African & Caribbean Dental Association UK
General Dental Council. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2017-2020. 
Exploring the ethnic diversity of UK dentistry.

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Black History Month: An insight into Dentistry in the UK.

We saw demonstrations with hundreds of thousands of people, chanting "Black Lives Matter" on the street's of the world's major cities, but what happens now? A year later, have things changed?