Dental students brush away fear of the dentist

Dental students from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry have been working with pupils at Mayflower Community School to show the youngsters how to brush their teeth and avoid sugar in their diet, as well as to take away any fear they might have of visiting the dentist.

On their first visit to the school, the second year students discovered that the school does not have access to a dentist and that dental care only happened in an emergency. They also found that a number of the pupils did not clean their teeth, and that several of them had a real fear of dentists.

The students have involved pupils and their parents in a number of fun activities designed to address these issues. By engaging the wider family they hope that good oral health can be replicated at home, and that more families are encouraged to sear dental treatment at one of two dental education facilities in Plymouth – where, as part of their training, dental students treat NHS patients under the supervision of qualified dental health professionals.

The pupils were taken through for fun ‘dental stations’. At the first, they were asked to brush their teeth and then use a special dental dye that highlights the bits they missed, to see how effective their brushing had really been.

The second station helped to address fear of the dentist. The pupils were given a special dentist’s outfit to wear and invited to role play as a dentist and look into one of the dental student’s mouth.

The third station was all about diet and the effect of sugar on teeth, while the fourth allowed pupils to try different flavoured toothpastes.

One of the dental students commented: ‘Regular and effective brushing pays dividends to oral health, which is why it is so important to ensure that children know how to brush their teeth properly from a young age. It is also important that youngsters grow up without a fear of the dentist – modern dental training and techniques are very mindful of this, and we often find that as well as removing the fear of the dentist from one child, we also achieve that with the rest of their family!’

Robert Witton, clinical lead in social engagement, Peninsula Social Dental Enterprise, Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, added: ‘This particular project is part of what we call our Inter Professional Engagement programme, where groups of dental students work with a variety of groups within the community to identify oral health issues and find ways in which to address them. Our thanks go to organisations such as Mayflower Community School that allow us to work so closely with them.’

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