Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise has joined forces with the charity Plymouth Highbury Trust to develop an innovative dental ambassador scheme.
The scheme will see a group of those using the charity trained to support their peers with good oral health practices and awareness.
It is the first time that such a dental initiative, where those with learning disabilities will assist their peers, has been introduced in the UK.
Robert Witton, director of Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise (PDSE), commented: 'We are excited to be working with the Plymouth Highbury Trust on such an innovative and forward-thinking project.
'By giving adults with a learning disability the skills and knowledge to promote better oral health awareness and care in others with the same issues, we hope to achieve greater incidences of self-care and oral hygiene and encourage more visits to the dentists.
'Our thanks go to colleagues at Plymouth Highbury Trust for allowing us to take this project forward – it will be a learning experience for us and one to which we are looking forward.'
The dental ambassador training programme will see 10 to 12 Plymouth Highbury Trust clients equipped with the knowledge and skills to reinforce key oral health messages with a focus on brushing, diet and access to dental care.
The aim is to build confidence and understanding so that the ambassadors become effective support for their peers.
The training programme lasts six weeks and will use fun and engaging methods.
One week will include visits to the Devonport Dental Education Facility, managed by PDSE and where dental students treat NHS patients under the supervision of qualified dental professionals.
These visits are designed to break down barriers and common misconceptions about visiting a dentist.
At the end of the training programme the dental ambassadors will give a presentation to an invited audience of Plymouth Highbury Trust supporters, and go on to use their new skills to encourage good oral health among others who use the charity’s services.
The Plymouth Highbury Trust supports adults with a learning disability across the city.
Part of its work includes a self-advocacy organisation called Plymouth People First, which runs speaking-up groups across the city and has over 120 members.
The charity works closely with PDSE, not least with the involvement of dental students from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry as part of their training.