Dental school team scoops award

The Community Development Team at the Devonport Dental Education Facility, Peninsula Dental School, has won the Local Community Engagement Award at the 2010 University of Plymouth Vice Chancellor’s Enterprise Awards.
The judges stated that the team had produced remarkable achievements in just two years, ensuring that the Devonport Dental Education Facility was not only physically located ‘in the community’ of Devonport but also genuinely acting ‘for the community’.

Since the Devonport Dental Education Facility opened in April 2009, its students have treated more than 3,000 NHS patients under supervision by qualified dentists.

While the Facility has contributed greatly to the dental health of the city, and its students have gained valuable clinical experience to prepare them as the dentists of tomorrow, its Community Development Team and students have also made a positive impact on the wider community.

By working with dental students, healthcare professionals and the local community, the team has introduced and developed a number of initiatives and activities that have promoted health, engendered a great sense of community and influenced students’ learning experiences.

One such initiative has involved the Shekinah Mission, a refuge for homeless people in Plymouth. Professor Gill Jones and colleagues from the Peninsula Dental School provided dental assessments for users of the Shekinah Mission and the feedback was remarkable.

They were amazed that everyone was so welcoming and friendly and they all felt that they had benefited hugely from their initial visit and were looking forward to continuing their treatment with students.

One Shekinah Mission patient, who lives on the streets, said: ‘I am not normally made to feel welcome anywhere I go, but this place is amazing – thank you!’

Another saw mums and children from the Whitleigh and Southernway Children’s Centre visit the Facility where they met with key members of the team, toured the treatment area and sat in a dental chair for a quick dental assessment.

This was just one of many activities designed by the team for children and their families and it provided an ideal opportunity for children to feel safe and comfortable in a dental clinic environment. It also helped to get across the message regarding good dental habits and the prevention of tooth decay.

The team provided a variety of resources and aids that focused on the reduction of sugar in children’s diets. There were activity sheets, toothbrushing charts, colouring sheets and stickers that encouraged families to think about oral health.

Professor Elizabeth Kay, Dean at the Peninsula Dental School, says: ‘This is a superb achievement by a committed, talented and innovative team. Our dental degree course focuses on primary care, so it is vital that our students are embedded in the community from the earliest point of their studies. What has been so satisfying about our community development programmes is not just the positive effect have on the communities in which we operate, but also how enthusiastically embraced each project has been by our students. The development of community aware dentists bodes well for the future of dentistry.’

The Devonport Dental Education Facility Community Development Team has received and will receive revenue funding from Devonport Regeneration Community Partnership (DCRP) until December 2010, at which point the Peninsula Dental School will continue with the funding until March 2012. DCRP has also contributed a proportion of capital investment to the Facility.

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