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World Oral Health Day: Students help children and families overcome fear of the dentist


  Posted by: The Probe      20th March 2019


Students from the University of Plymouth have designed and led an intervention to help children and families overcome fear of the dentist.

Working with the Family Intensive Intervention Project, the Dental Therapy and Hygiene students from Peninsula Dental School designed the session to include trying on dental clothing and protective equipment, and identify problems with ‘teeth’ on a mannequin.

The Family Intensive Intervention Project is run by Children Young People and Families Services at Plymouth City Council, and works with families experiencing multiple difficulties, such as poor health, housing issues, antisocial behaviour and substance misuse.

Taking place at Devonport Dental Education Facility, the session also included tooth-brushing tips, handwashing advice, and the opportunity to find out how much hidden sugar is in a variety of food and drink. 

The session took place as part of the students’ Inter-Professional Engagement module – which the University runs on its BDS Dental Surgery and BSc Dental Therapy and Hygiene programmes in partnership with Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise (PDSE) and community engagement charity, Well Connected.

Wayne Kirby, Practice Manager for the Family Intensive Intervention Project, explained why the session was so useful: “For me, it’s about planting that seed, especially for the young kids. Some of them are quite anxious about the dentist, especially if their parents are anxious too.

“Interactive activities like this where you can go in there and see what it’s all about are fantastic. Also it helps to plant a seed aspirationally – perhaps they could be dentists or dental hygiene-therapists one day.”

Joseph Burchell, Dental Therapy and Hygiene student at the University of Plymouth, said: “We wanted to make it a really interactive experience, and we’re so pleased that the families found it really positive. It was great that the key workers were there as well, as it hopefully means that the information we delivered can be shared more widely to help make the project more sustainable.”

Martha Paisi, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Oral Health Inequalities at the University of Plymouth, said: “When people talk about someone’s health or wellbeing, their teeth aren’t always considered as an important factor. We want to show people why oral health is so important, and work to break down barriers that might prevent people looking after their teeth. The event was really positive and it was great to see everyone getting involved.”

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