The Dentist Magazine.

Dental students look at children’s oral health in inner cities

Published: 06/02/2017

Dental students from Plymouth University have worked with an inner city children’s nursery run by Barnardo’s, in order to look at the issues affecting children’s oral health in urban areas.

The students worked with children, parents and staff at Nomony Children’s Centre (Barnardos) in Plymouth.

They ran a fun and engaging interactive show for the children with puppets and music to highlight the main aspects of effective tooth brushing. They then worked with the children in groups to talk them through the process of teeth cleaning while they practised on their own teeth. At the end of the session the children were left with a range of resources, including toothbrushes and toothpaste, so that they could carry on with their daily brushing.

Another element of the project was attendance at a Barnardo’s community support event for parents with young children. There, the dental students ran a stall and talked to visitors about oral hygiene and how to care for their children’s teeth. New parents came away with information and resources to help keep their youngsters’ teeth and gums healthy. Some 89 families attended.

The project is part of the Inter Professional Engagement programme which sees dental students undertake a number of projects in the community designed to raise oral health awareness and to improve access to dental care. The programme is delivered by the Community Engagement Team at the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise.

The project is timely, given that the state of children’s teeth in the UK has featured heavily in the media. A Local Government Association report showed that 40,970 surgical procedures were carried out on children for their teeth in 2014-15, at a cost of £35m – all to address a health problem which is entirely preventable. 

Sarah Trubody, cluster manager from Nomony Children’s Centre, commented, “This is the first time that we have worked with dental students from Plymouth University and it has been a great experience for all concerned. Many parents see the news and are anxious about the health of their children’s teeth, but often advice is contradictory or hard to put into practice. The students have been great at getting the children enthused about cleaning their teeth while at the same time providing useful and relevant support to their parents.”

Wendy Smith, strategic lead for Community Engagement at Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise, added, “We are immensely grateful to community partners such as the Nomony Children’s Centre for hosting the students’ projects. The projects give the students great experience which holds them in good stead for when they become fully fledged dental care professionals, while at the same time making a positive contribution to the oral wellbeing of our local community.”