The Dentist Magazine.

Give a child a toothbrush and change a life

Published: 25/04/2017

A small community-based oral health project which has comprehensively demonstrated how effective it can be to initiate tooth-brushing programmes in schools has become the first winner of the newly created BSPD Outstanding Innovation Award.

Teeth Team was set up in 2010, in a deprived area of Hull. Through the commitment of its founders, the project won the support of schools, local dental practices, dental suppliers and politicians.  The number of children from the area having a general anaesthetic for multiple extractions has since decreased by nearly 20 per cent and Teeth Team has played a key role.

The brainchild of Ingrid Perry, the project started modestly.  She was working for a local area team in 2006, when she devised a children’s oral health scheme called Brush Bus. After funding was withdrawn, Ingrid won the support of a Hull practice-owner, Chris Groombridge of 543 Dental Centre.

Ingrid said, “Thanks to Chris, lots of doors began to open and the scheme grew into Teeth Team. Before I knew it we had local dental practices offering pro bono visits to schools and head teachers of other schools wanting us to set up schemes while Colgate and Henry Schein donated toothbrushes and paste and fluoride varnish. We have had so much support.

“In Hull there was a whole generation of families for whom it was normal never to see the dentist except to go to hospital to have teeth extracted. That’s all they know. But we got talking to children, broke down the barriers and now families are accessing routine dental care.”

Ingrid said that when she heard the news of the award, she could not stop smiling. “Working in the dental profession, I know how highly regarded BSPD is and to win a BSPD award speaks volumes. I am very proud.

“But this is very much a team effort. There are many people involved in Teeth Team. We all bring something different to the table but we share a commitment to make a difference.”

In the last year, the scheme has grown even bigger with Simply Health Professionals committing £137k to support research and the start of a national roll-out. Ingrid and Chris have also given presentations around the country and at national level to CDO Sara Hurley and her colleagues at NHS England.

There could be no better winner in 2017, according to Claire Stevens, BSPD’s spokesperson, who praised everyone involved in the initiative. She commented, “Teeth Team provide the evidence that, where there is a commitment to make dental health a priority in schools, change is possible. Children’s oral health is everyone’s business and this is a perfect example.”

The prize for winning the award is the opportunity to give a presentation at the BSPD conference. As the founder and the secretary, Ingrid has been invited to be a conference speaker.

Claire praised the other entries to the award which were:

  • A portfolio of resources to help reduce dental anxiety in children from a team at Sheffield University led by Zoe Marshman. The evaluation demonstrated improved quality of life among young dental patients thanks to the resources with 60 per cent saying they were less worried about going to the dentist.
  • The Risk Disk, a caries risk assessment tool developed by Sophie Marshall, a specialty registrar in paediatric dentistry, and Thayalan Kandiah, a consultant in paediatric dentistry at East Grinstead. Clinicians using the Risk Disk reported that its use aids treatment planning for children of high caries risk and targeted caries prevention. Parents reported that this method of demonstrating caries risk is more useful than a leaflet.
  • An online oral health and risk assessment tool for young patients developed by a team led by Stephen Fayle, consultant in paediatric dentistry, with Professor Iain Chapple, Mike Busby and Liz Chapple. Trialed among dentists for a month, the Young DEPPA (Denplan PreViser Patient Assessment tool) got very favourable feedback.


Claire said, “This is the first year of the award and we are delighted to have received such great entries, reflecting the innovative work being undertaken by members. The BSPD Outstanding Innovation Award showcases our commitment to improving the oral health of children. ”