Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

Experiences of racism in dentistry to be foregrounded in upcoming FGDP(UK) event

By Brendan Day, DTI
July 10, 2020

LONDON, UK: Like others grappling with the extent of systemic racism in the wake of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests held around the world, the dental community is speaking up on such social justice movements. In line with this topic, the Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK)—FGDP(UK)—will be holding an event during which a number of dentists will discuss their lived experiences of racism in dentistry for the purpose of engaging on how to address this issue.

As reported last month by Dental Tribune International, the 25 May death of George Floyd at the hands of American police officers sparked widespread protests throughout the US that were intended to highlight the pressing need for police reforms in the country. Though dentistry is rarely a hotbed of political activism, several of the US’s top dental organisations—the American Dental Association, the American Association of Women Dentists, the Hispanic Dental Association and the Society of American Indian Dentists—were quick to issue a joint statement in which they urged people to eliminate personal bias, embrace diversity and inclusion, and help dismantle systemic inequality.

Across the Atlantic, thousands of people marched in solidarity with the BLM movement in protests held throughout June in London, Belfast, Glasgow and many other UK cities. The British dental world too has responded, and the British Dental Association (BDA), the leading trade union for UK-based dentists, released a statement regarding the protests on 7 July.

“Recent events have forced us all to confront the reality of continued anti-black racism,” commented Dr Mick Armstrong, chair of the BDA’s Principal Executive Committee, in a press release. “We stand in solidarity with those who have been peacefully demonstrating against anti-black racism and say, unequivocally, that black lives matter.”

Prior to the BDA’s statement, numerous dental professionals in the UK offered first-hand accounts of dealing with racism within what has historically been a predominantly white industry. In an article for Dentistry Online, Drs Olumide Ojo and Yewande Oduwole, along with dental hygienist Chinwe Akuonu, candidly outlined some of their negative experiences of casual and subconscious forms of racism in dental education and practices, as well as their shared frustration over the lack of visible black dental role models.

In a personal piece for the FGDP(UK)’s website, FGDP(UK) Vice Dean Dr Onkar Dhanoya also wrote about his life as an Asian dentist in the UK and the associated struggles. Dhanoya’s teachers actively discouraged him from pursuing a career in dentistry, and upon graduation, the only practice to offer him a position was one run by Dr Shabbir Hussain, another Asian dentist.

Dhanoya, Ojo and Oduwole, along with several other dental professionals from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, will all be panellists on a free webinar to be held by the FGDP(UK) on 21 July at 7 p.m. GMT. The discussion will focus on experiences of racial inequality in the dental profession, and further information about the webinar can be found here.

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