A group of dental therapy and hygiene students have been working with national charity Action for Children to help prevent tooth decay and avoid tooth extractions.

Latest Local Government Association figures state that 160 children and teenagers have teeth extracted in hospital under general anaesthetic every day. These operations are wholly avoidable with good oral hygiene practices and diet, and regular check-ups with a dentist.

With the ultimate aim of avoiding hospital visits, the students from Plymouth University Peninsula School of Dentistry (PUPSD) carried out a project with Action for Children at its Green Ark Children Centre to provide children and their parents with the knowledge and information to prevent tooth decay.

Hands-on

The students provided interactive demonstrations on oral hygiene techniques and diet advice, and carried out free fluoride varnish application – a treatment which has been proved to prevent tooth decay.

There was also the opportunity for parents to sign their children up for treatment and check-ups at one of PUPSD’s dental education facilities (DEFs). DEFs are where dental profession students treat NHS patients as part of their studies, under the supervision of qualified dental clinical professionals.

Community project

The project is part of the inter professional engagement (IPE) 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.

Pat Smith from Action for Children commented: ‘No parent wants their child to be operated on, especially to treat something like tooth decay which is avoidable, but often the advice is confusing and the support hard to come by. The dental therapy and hygiene students were brilliant, with both parents and children coming away with a new enthusiasm for looking after their teeth.’

Karen Burn, dental care professional in the community engagement team at the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise, added: ‘It was great to see our dental therapy and hygiene students making such a positive contribution to the oral health of young children. We are grateful to Action for Children for hosting this project – without the support of our host organisations it would be impossible to run the IPE programme.’