Tackling rugby

Oh boy, does time fly? Yet another academic year is over and the ambition of becoming a qualified dentist is one step closer. The new semester has already begun for me at a somewhat breathtaking pace.

However, a look back over the past year and I would have to say that 2009/10 was a good one for me personally (besides having the odd hiccup).

We had a whole bunch of competencies, study groups and clinic sessions to get through but one project that stood out for me was our Special Study Unit (SSU). This is a community-based project that involves going out into the community to promote better dental care/dental health.

A different project is undertaken every year in groups of 7-8 students and lasts for five months (November-April) after which we have to write up our findings in a report and then present our project to the whole year, including an expert panel of judges!

This year our dean, Professor Liz Kay was on the panel, so this added to the nerves. The best group was determined by marks given by the panel and the whole year group in a spot of peer assessment (perfect opportunity to find out how many friends you have!)

My group’s project involved investigating dental trauma in sport, namely in rugby. Our target group was the Plymouth Albion Men’s rugby team.


For all the females out there, you can understand the girls’ excitement at this prospect!

We got to meet the players in a number of visits and got up close and not so personal when we took impressions for mouthguards… professionalism is the key!

On a more serious note, it was quite astonishing to find out what little emphasis was placed on mouthguard protection when playing contact sport.

Having spoken to the coaches of the team, it seemed that no training was actually given to the players or the coaches with regards to what to do in the event of a dental injury.

We found out that there were no guidelines in place or any sort of rule saying that rugby players should always be wearing mouthguards! Even more shocking was that some of the players didn’t wear or even own a mouthguard.

As a result, we set up the mouthguard programme providing education and mouthguards for all those players who wanted to have a custom guard made. This all proved very successful.

Admittedly, the study was only carried out on the men’s team, which was a small population and therefore caused our results to be statistically not significant.

However, there are plans in place for future years to expand the programme to the women’s teams and into the community as a whole.

We learnt a lot from our SSU, not just about the dentistry, but also about working as a team. My group definitely learnt that when we work together we can do very well. Our teamwork resulted in us coming a very close second in the presentations and my written report was voted the best out of the whole year (which I was quite chuffed about!).

Overall, it was a very successful year and I can only hope that 2010/11 will be just as good! This year Peninsula Dental School’s first, inaugural cohort will be graduating, so good luck to all our fourth-year students and to all dental students out there. Have a great year!

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