More than 10,000 people in Devon and Cornwall now have access to NHS dental care, thanks to dental students and staff at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry.
Its first dental treatment clinic opened in April 2008 in Exeter and was followed by further Dental Education Facilities in Plymouth (Devonport and Derriford) and Truro.
Clinical Dental Education Facilities are vital to the training of dental students, because it is there that they provide NHS dental services and treatments to patients under the close supervision of qualified dentists.
Students first practise their clinical skills with modern dental simulation equipment and in the second term of their first year they begin seeing NHS patients at the Dental Education Facility in Exeter, where they perform basic treatments and provide advice and information regarding oral health.
The second year of training is spent at the Dental Education Facility in Devonport where the dental treatments they provide become more complex and where they begin special study units which see them interacting with a wide range of groups in the community – such as schools, older people and individuals from disadvantaged groups.
Year three is spent either in Devonport or Truro where students are introduced to a wider range of dental treatments and patient groups.
By year four the students are providing a wide range of complex treatments for their patients in final preparation for their qualification and introduction to the working world of dentistry. Time spent at the Dental Education Facilities is interspersed with academic training at Plymouth University and in local hospitals.
Professor Christopher Tredwin, head of the School of Dentistry at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, said: 'As well as producing dentists of the future of the highest calibre, another key mission for us is to contribute to the dental health and wellbeing of the South West. We are delighted to have been able to bring NHS dental treatment to over 10,000 people in Devon and Cornwall, and to have contributed positively to improved dental health in the region.'
He added: 'My thanks go to my colleagues and our students for their continuing hard work and commitment to patient care, to our patients for working with us to help train the dentists of tomorrow and to our colleagues in the local NHS and beyond who have contributed to this important milestone.” '
Andrew Harris, dental lead for Devon, Plymouth and Torbay PCTs, said: 'The dental school is making an important contribution towards the overall improvements in access to dental services which have been made in the area and we look forward to build upon these gains in the future.'
Bridget Sampson, director of Primary Care for NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, added: 'We supported the creation of the dental school as we recognised the benefits of training people locally in the hope they may decide to remain in Cornwall to practice. I am delighted that so many patients in Devon and Cornwall have benefited already simply by having the training here.'