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Oral health care gets socially enterprising

Plymouth is first university in the world to be awarded the Social Enterprise Mark

The university has achieved another world first as the first education provider to incorporate a clinical entity into a social enterprise. The new social enterprise – Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise – brings Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry’s successful Dental Education Facilities and all its community activity under one umbrella.

Dental Education Facilities are an innovation in dental education and have made a real impact on oral health improvement in the South West. The four facilities – two in Plymouth and one each in Exeter and Truro – were created to give dental students experience of treating NHS patients under the supervision of qualified dentists. The concept has been so successful that more than 10,000 people in Devon and Cornwall now have access to NHS dental care where they may not have done so before.

The Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry Dental Community Development Team also comes under the auspices of the new Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise.

The team is instrumental in ensuring that groups in the community who may not have had access to NHS dental care before, receive it. The team works with a range of organisations, from schools to nursing homes, prisons to rehabilitation units, and groups that represent people with particular medical conditions, arranging visits to the Dental Education Facilities, oral health awareness activities in the field and ensuring that the barriers stopping certain people getting NHS dental care are removed.

The team also organises special study units, which see dental students carrying out projects with community groups to mutual benefit – a vital and innovative part of student training.

The new Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise will continue the great work achieved by the dental team over the past six years. Its focus will be on teaching and training; research; community engagement; workshops; providing dental treatment; education about oral health; and other related activities. The benefits to the wider community will be improved oral health and education and a reduction in oral health inequalities.

Professor Rob Sneyd, dean of Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, said: 'Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise will allow us to build still further on our successful track record, both in the community and in improving oral health throughout the region. It is a measure of our commitment to outstanding clinical education, strong social and community engagement and world class research. We have led the way with our innovative approach to training the dentists of the future – we lead again with the formation of Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise.'

Professor Wendy Purcell, vice-chancellor of Plymouth University, added: 'As the first university in the world to receive a Social Enterprise Mark, and the national lead of the Social Enterprise University Enterprise Network, we’re actively supporting and developing this vital sector of the economy. Now, through the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise, we’ll have the opportunity to combine that entrepreneurial expertise with our ‘bench to bedside’ approach to health provision and community care. In doing so, we can bring dental care to thousands of people across the region.'

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