Six people from Plymouth People First who have learning disabilities have completed a programme of training conceived and provided by the Community Engagement Team at the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise (PDSE).
The programme is the first in the UK to provide people with a learning disability with the understanding, awareness and confidence to help their peers to adopt better oral hygiene and make regular visits to the dentist.
Robert Witton, director of PDSE, commented: ‘This has been an inspiring project and one which will not only result in better oral awareness and hygiene within this group, but has also resulted in increased self-confidence and self-esteem in our first dental ambassadors.
‘We are looking forward to developing this initiative with more folk from Plymouth People First and from further afield.’
The first team of people to complete the course have spent six weeks with dental experts from the PDSE.
Each week they have built on their experiences using a wide range of different resources, from role play, creating storyboards, visits to the Dental Education Facility in Devonport, Plymouth and quizzes.
One dental ambassador used Makaton, a system of signs and symbols, as an aid to better communication.
The training culminated with a presentation from the dental ambassadors on diet, tooth brushing and how to access dental care.
Each dental ambassador received a certificate and an oral health pack, and they will now go on to use their skills to promote good dental hygiene and care to their peers.
Jill Singh, self advocacy project officer at Plymouth People First, added: ‘This sort of peer-to-peer initiative is extremely effective and we are delighted to have played such a key role in a national first.
‘It has been really heartening to see how our service users who have taken part have grown as individuals, and the impact on oral health in this group is already evident.’