Community Dental Services create Oral Health Champions within schools

Community Dental Services CIC Essex in partnership with Essex County Council, has been funded by Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board to establish a Peer Led Education Programme in primary schools across Colchester and Tendring to tackle tooth decay in children.  

Through bespoke training, CDS is delivering the oral health programme directly to   primary schools who have been identified by the local Public Health team and the Essex Child and Family Wellbeing Service – using data from the National Child Measurement Programme, Oral Health Survey of 5-year-olds, and high proportion of free school meals – as a measure of deprivation.  

Overall, 23.4% of 5-year-old children in England had experience of obvious dental decay according to the National Dental Epidemiology Programme Biennial Oral Health survey in 2019. Tooth decay is a serious health issue with recent figures revealing that 43,000 children and young people had been admitted to hospital to have teeth that are unable to be saved removed under general anaesthetic. It affects children’s oral and general health, impacting on their confidence, wellbeing and ability to take part in everyday activities such as attending nurseries and schools, yet it is preventable.      

Aiming to encourage schools via a peer-led approach to adopt tooth-friendly practices and reduce tooth decay, the programme encourages body positivity, the use of tooth-friendly foods and drinks between meals and the sharing of information in peer groups. 

Helen Paisley, Chief Executive Officer, CDS is delighted how well the programme is being received: “Our aim is to work with communities to raise awareness of oral health and its impact on overall health and wellbeing. Establishing good oral health habits from an early age is so important and a peer-to-peer programme like this could have a positive impact on these children for life.”

Toyah Khan & Sarah Nunn are the Oral Health Improvement Practitioners delivering the training in schools: “We mobilised the programme four months ago and work closely with Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System to support settings who have been chosen to participate in the fully funded ‘Peer Led Education’ programme due to their proactive work around prevention.  We are visiting schools to discuss good oral health and provide training to small groups of children from Years 3 to 6 who would like to become Oral Health Champions for their peers. We are delighted with the champions so far and it’s encouraging to see them promoting oral health to their class and at school fetes.” 

The young Oral Health Champions receive a certificate and pin badge which they wear on their uniforms to identify them as the oral health champions in the school, and share information and oral health education in peer groups using posters, brushing demonstrations or through assembly presentations.  

Greg Brown, Interim Head of Dental, NHS Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board said: “Helping children learn how to look after their teeth and gums is key to setting them up for good oral health for life and improving their general wellbeing. As the network of Oral Health Champions in schools grows, we hope to see a reduction in the number of children – and subsequently adults – requiring emergency dental procedures.” 

The Essex County Council Public Health team said: “We are pleased that the early stages of this programme of work has been well received by children, young people and schools and look forward to seeing similar system wide approaches to improve oral health outcomes among children in Essex.”  

Spring Meadow Primary, Harwich was the first school to sign up and receive the training. Year 3 teacher, Danielle Cooper said “Our Year 3 and 4 children thoroughly enjoyed learning more about oral health and becoming champions for the school. They have since led sessions with their classes about how to look after their teeth and gums, which were a great success with the children.” 

The CDS Essex Oral Health team continue to offer ongoing support to schools participating in the programme and offer oral health training to staff to support the Champions.

Community Dental Services CIC take action on Mouth Cancer

The Oxfordshire CDS-CIC oral health improvement team are taking action on mouth cancer through awareness raising events during November to mark Mouth Cancer Action Month.

In the Oxford and Abingdon areas, they will be joining Health Walks organised by Oxfordshire County Council and the Ramblers Association. Aimed at older people, the walks help participants to keep active and enjoy being out-and-about with others. As instances of mouth cancer increase with age, with 78% of cases occurring in the over fifty-fives, the Health Walks are an ideal opportunity to walk and chat informally about self-checking and how to spot early signs of mouth cancer and risk factors like smoking and alcohol consumption. The walking and talking model is proving so successful that more are planned for Banbury next year. The OHI team are supporting the Mouth Cancer Action Month sponsored 10KM Walk From Home challenge and these walks will count towards some of the team’s individual 10KM totals.

To mark Blue Wednesday on 16th November, the OHI team will have a pop-up stall at the John Radcliffe Hospital with the Oxford University Hospital Here for Health and the Maxillo-Facial teams, to raise awareness of self-checking and risk factors associated with mouth cancer to patients, visitors and hospital staff.

Charlotte Iddon, CDS Oral Health Improvement Manager for Oxfordshire said: “Mouth Cancer Action Month is a fantastic opportunity to focus on oral cancers and raise awareness of the importance of self-checking for signs like changes in the mouth such as ulcers that do not heal after three weeks and changers to the tongue and gums.  We also stress the importance of stopping smoking and keeping alcohol consumption to recommended limits.”

Mouth Cancer Action Month runs throughout November to raise awareness of mouth and oral cancers. Last year 8,772 people were diagnosed with the disease, the equivalent to one person every hour. Cases have risen in the UK by 58% over the last decade.

CDS marks a year providing dentistry to Safe Space’s homeless customers

For a year, Community Dental Services CIC has been running a drop-in dental clinic at Safe Space: an emergency housing provider in Derby, for people who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets. They provide people with a ‘safe space’ to get help, support and temporary overnight accommodation.  

The dental provision was set up by Maeve McLernon, Specialty Registrar in Special Care Dentistry and Heidi Nuttall, Specialist in Specialist Care Dentistry. Heidi said “We love providing the Safe Space clinics because we are able to reach a community who otherwise would really struggle to access a dentist. Their social and medical factors; along with reluctance to go into dental practices through fear of being judged, compound the difficulties faced by the general population with finding a dentist. We feel we can really make a difference sorting somebody’s pain or restoring their smile. These patients have so many issues in their lives. Having a dentist available on a drop-in basis means we can help to make one of their issues easier for them, and this is very rewarding.  

We are able to perform dental examinations, extractions, simple fillings and dentures as well as providing oral health advice. Our drop-in clinic is available to the homeless community and substance misuse patients, so a lot of our work we do involves taking out teeth and making dentures. Some of our patients have been in so much pain and we are able to free them of that and provide them with false teeth, often for those who haven’t had any teeth for a long time. I find these cases the most gratifying.” 

Ruth Golton, Safe Space Manager for Derby City Mission, explains why Safe Space is so important: “Within the wider homeless community, Safe Space is seen as a place of refuge and a place to come when you are in trouble. We have often had people turn up needing help or reassurance over a hot drink. 

 We provide services that our clientele may find difficult to access or are too afraid to go to. We have a dedicated homeless paramedic prescriber, a councillor, chiropodist and our staff provide help with accessing benefits and telephone interviews. We also provide a place of safety where guests can relax, have some food, talk, perhaps even do some cooking, all with the aim of helping their mental health and getting them back into normal working society.  
 We work with other projects within Derby City Mission: The Jubilee Debt Clinic, By My Side (helping people to get off an addiction) and Mt Place (helping to keep them in accommodation when they are difficult to house).” 

In addition, CDS is passionate about making a difference and has partnered with fellow social enterprise Change Please, to deliver dental services on a repurposed London bus, to support the dental and oral health needs of homeless people in London, through the initiative “driving for change”.

CDS also conducted a survey in April 2021 – April 2022 in Nottingham city to provide a ‘snapshot’ into the oral health needs of patients who have a background of SMD.

The findings highlighted a clear need for access to ongoing dental care,

Data was collected from 45 participants, and showed their past 12 months experiences were:

  • 17 experienced homelessness.
  • 26 experienced problems with drug or alcohol use.
  • 25 experienced problems with ill mental health.
  • 12 offending or involvement with courts.
  • 62% of participants had not attended a dentist for more than 2 years.
  • 55% of participants reported dental pain.
  • 31% of participants reported DIY dentistry with many telling of how they extracted their own teeth.
  • Almost all participants required dental treatment.
  • 55% required an extraction.
  • 60% required restorations.

Children benefit from toothbrushing packs and oral health education during National Smile Month

Community Dental Services CIC, along with East Suffolk Community Partnerships and Lowestoft Rising, are raising awareness around oral health amongst children in years one, two and six. 


In response to growing concerns over the number of children in the area requiring general anaesthetic appointments for dental treatment, CDS is reinforcing the key oral health messages to establish prevention rather than cure.  


600 toothbrushing packs will be distributed to primary school children, scout groups and food banks in Beccles, Bungay, Halesworth, with an additional 1,500 packs for years one and two children in Lowestoft. 

Whilst many children in Suffolk have healthy teeth compared to the national average, there are some areas where tooth decay is still very high.  According to the 2019 National Dental Epidemiology Programme for England Oral Health Survey, overall, 23.4% of five-year-old children in England had experience of obvious dental decay. Tooth decay is a serious health issue with recent figures revealing that 43,000 children and young people had been admitted to hospital to have teeth that are unable to be saved removed under general anaesthetic. This is the single highest reason for a child to be admitted to hospital for treatment under general anaesthetic. Tooth decay can significantly impact children’s oral and general health, affecting their confidence, wellbeing and ability to take part in everyday activities such as attending nurseries and schools, yet it is preventable.


Cllr Mary Rudd, East Suffolk’s cabinet member for Community Health, said: “It’s really gratifying to see such a beneficial resource being provided for the community through the distribution of these oral health packs. The project is designed to help encourage young people to develop and maintain good oral hygiene habits, while also thinking about their dietary choices.” 


“We’ve heard from local food banks that oral hygiene is one of the things affected by the current cost of living pressures, so I hope this project can help ensure families receive the right tools and information. It’s particularly important at a time when many people have struggled to access dental care following the pandemic. Where a short survey has been sent out in conjunction with the packs, we’ll be considering any feedback received from families and school staff.” 


Amanda Turner, Oral Health Improvement Manager at CDS said: “CDS is the only oral health education provider commissioned by NHS England, alongside East Suffolk Council in the Waveney area and Norfolk County Council, to deliver our Healthy Smiles accreditation programme to schools in Norfolk and Waveney. We are an organisation that supports the community and we are looking at reducing the inequalities in oral health. By providing Oral Health input, the project ensures the right message and education is given. In the packs received by year six children, we have also provided an evaluation piece of work produced for the teachers and pupils themselves. Our Healthy Smiles Award is a programme that is proven to work, instilling good oral health habits in young children that last a lifetime.” 

Local supermarket, Morrisons has supported the free toothbrushing pack for the project work in Lowestoft, which contains a tube of toothpaste, toothbrush, timer and information sheet from CDS.

CDS’s Healthy Smiles Award combines oral health improvement to raise awareness of how to care for teeth and combined with supervised toothbrushing sessions in the classroom.


Please contact for more information. 

Community Dental Services CIC wins national social enterprise award

Community Dental Services CIC (CDS-CIC), operating throughout much of Central and the East of England, has won the Health and Social Care Social Enterprise Award at the UK Social Enterprise Awards, held at the Guildhall in London on 8th December.

The award celebrated how the dentally led, employee-owned social enterprise responded to the challenge at the height of the covid pandemic, resuming patient care and opening some of the first Urgent Dental Care Centres in the country. The award also acknowledged how technology was rolled out at pace to support patient triage and oral health improvement programmes, particularly in the care sector, and community interventions such as donating toothbrushing kits to food banks and to homeless shelters. When dental care was suspended at the beginning of the pandemic, CDS responded by establishing Urgent Dental Care Centres (UDCs) across nine counties, through which 2,175 people were seen for emergency treatment. 33,000. Oral health training was delivered on-line to almost 3k care home workers to help them manage the oral health of vulnerable elderly in lockdown.

The national Awards, organised by Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) recognises excellence and outstanding achievements by social enterprises, businesses set up to for a social or environmental purpose that reinvest or donate the majority of their profits to meet their mission. From tackling the climate emergency to reducing homelessness, social enterprises are taking on some of the biggest challenges we face, using trade to change lives and protect the planet. They have also been at the heart of community responses to the pandemic, providing essential services from food deliveries to health care with many pivoting their models to keep on supporting the people they are set up to help.

There are 100,000 of these businesses in the UK contributing £60 billion to the economy and employing two million people.

Alison Reid CEO, praised CDS employees: ‘‘I am very proud that CDS have won the Health and Social Care Social Enterprise Award. This is a clear acknowledgment of how hard we have worked over the last 18 months to treat patients in very difficult circumstances, becoming one of the first dental providers to establish urgent care services to provide care to those with high dental need; Finding new ways to continue to deliver essential oral health improvement programmes digitally; Supporting a rapid transition to remote working to provide dental screening and reaching out to offer support to our communities from funding 38,000 toothbrush packs for people in the most need, to volunteering in vaccination centres and creating a production line of scrub bags! During the last year, our teams have faced incredible challenges and I am delighted they have received the recognition they deserve from the Social Enterprise community.”

Award judges commented “A standout application, we need CDS everywhere. CDS offers a professional design led service for those who would not otherwise be able to access it. It works with vulnerable patients including the homeless, people reliant on foodbanks and those special needs, making the journey easier for them. What they achieved in the context of COVID was remarkable”  

Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK said: “In what has been an incredibly challenging year social enterprises have given us a real sense of hope. They’ve shown us what it means to put people and communities first, showing real resilience and strength without compromising on their values, integrity and impact.

From taking on the injustices in the food system and using technology to support people experiencing homelessness to being on the frontline of supporting communities through the pandemic – this year’s winners represent not just the best of business but the future of business.”

Dental Nurse uses BSL to share oral health messages at youth club

CDS Dental Nurse, Sarah Nunn, has visited a youth club and used her British Sign Language knowledge to help share oral health education among children and their families.

Sarah, who is a Level 3 BSL student, was invited by Families of Deaf Children Essex to attend their youth club on 9th November. During the session, Sarah was able to talk and use her British Sign Language knowledge to communicate with the families and hand out toothbrush packs to the children. “The families had at least one member who is deaf, so I gave the information in BSL as well as English. I really enjoyed interacting with the children and their parents. I am currently studying for my Level 3 qualification and in attendance with me at the event were 2 interpreters. I am so proud of where my BSL journey has taken me. It was a great success and I’ve had some lovely feedback from the families that attended. To be able to connect with the deaf community and deliver information about good oral health is all I have ever wanted to achieve”.

Families of Deaf Children (Essex) thanked Sarah for a successful evening: “A big thank you to Sarah Nunn from Community Dental Services for spending time putting packs together to bring to tonight’s youth club. Sarah spent two hours talking and using her British Sign Language knowledge to communicate with our families.”

Sarah is enjoying studying to become Level 3 qualified in BSL. “I have been very fortunate that CDS has enabled me to gain my qualification in British Sign Language Level 1 and Level 2. I have also attended a deaf awareness course and this has enabled me to share knowledge and tips with the wider Essex team. CDS is a referral only dental service treating patients with additional needs who may not be able to communicate verbally, and BSL is one way we can communicate with some patients.  CDS will always book an interpreter for appointments if required, but in additional to their presence I feel my knowledge of BSL has helped me open communication with patients who I personally was unable to be support in this way.  My favourite moment with CDS so far was a little boy who was so excited that he could sign with me. His mother told me that it made the appointment so special for him. I look forward to continuing to learn this skill and share this information with my colleagues.”

CDS named winners for Delivering Good Governance and Engagement among employee-owned businesses

Community Dental Services CiC is the winner of the EOA award for Delivering Good Governance and Engagement, as announced in yesterday’s annual Employee Ownership Association conference.

The competition held by the EOA, celebrated how being employee-owned has supported businesses during challenging times. Entries came from employee-owned businesses of all sizes and highlighted how their focus on their people has supported employee health and wellbeing, helped the business adapt and delivered benefit for multiple stakeholders.

CDS’s entry focused on how we took responsibility, as a group of employee owners, in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic in Spring/Summer 2020, to set up UDCs across seven counties, and were one of the first dental providers to resume direct care for patients during the lockdown. CDC’s submission described the amazing efforts to establish operating procedures, source PPE and the steps taken, in numerous ways to support and reassure patients and each other.

CDS’s Chief Executive Alison Reid, praised the hard work of all employees: “I am proud to see us recognised for the work everyone has been doing during the pandemic. EOA represents over 8,000 employee owned companies, many health and care providers so it’s great to be winners in this category. It is especially pleasing that our submission has been selected as the winner, given that this year’s awards were decided by votes cast by other employee owned businesses, many of whom were delivering incredible things in their communities. It is fantastic news that CDS has been recognised nationally alongside our peers, for all our collective hard work and ingenuity as employee owners.”

About CDS

Community Dental Services (CDS-CIC) is a 100% employee-owned social enterprise providing community dental services to the NHS and oral health improvement programmes throughout Bedfordshire, Luton, Oxfordshire, Leicestershire, Essex, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Norfolk and Waveney.

CDS’s social mission is to Improve Oral Health in Ever More Communities.

2021 sees CDS mark 10 years as an employee-owned social enterprise. The company was officially incorporated on 4th March and began trading on 1st April 2011. CDS transitioned from the NHS 10 years ago under ‘Right to Provide’, with a clear conviction that being an independent organisation would afford more control over how services were delivered and, ultimately, on the quality care patients received.