Plymouth dental experts taking oral health to Philippines

Ruth Potterton and Robert Witton


Two Plymouth University School of Dentistry dental experts are to bring oral health care, treatments and information to the Philippines.

Joining a small team of professionals volunteering for Dentaid, Robert Witton and Ruth Potterton will be part of a wider grouping of relief teams who will be working together across a range of activities, including teaching English, IT, community support training and rebuilding following earthquakes, fires and typhoon damage in Mandaue City on the island of Cebu.

‘Our mission with Dentaid is to get all the school children dentally fit,’ said Ruth.

‘We’ll do this by offering pain relief treatments where necessary, atraumatic restorative treatment (ART) if possible, and fluoride varnish for all the children.’

The operation and project activities will be based around Umapad Elementary School.

The school is public-funded with approximately 1100 children of whom the majority are extremely poor.

The school offers education to a group termed ‘scavenger children’, who live in and around the city’s dump sites and who earn a living recycling other people’s waste into money.

Oral treatments

ART is an alternative treatment for dental decay where the demineralised and non-sensitive affected parts of the tooth are removed with hand instruments only, requiring no anaesthesia.

The cavity is then filled with a self-hardening dental cement.

Robert added: ‘As well as oral treatments, we will also be providing lots of oral health education for the children and their teachers in addition to setting up a school tooth brushing programme.’

A local dentist will be helping with the mission and will work alongside local dental students from the dental school in Cebu and the Dentaid team to provide a Dental Treatment Centre while construction work takes place.

In addition to the team from Dentaid, Wiltshire College will send staff and students who will install a complete classroom with IT equipment donated from the UK.

They will also lead a training programme to support teachers in providing seminars on how to develop English-speaking skills for students.

The search and rescue team will work with local first responders and community support volunteers to establish training and future links, and Team Rubicon (an emergency disaster relief charity) will help with moving post-earthquake, fire and typhoon-related rubble and support local people in making the school education-ready. 

Local volunteers will be undertaking search and rescue training delivered by Team Rubicon and Serve On, made up of local service personnel (mainly firefighters).

The full operation will last for two weeks, and the various activities are concentrated in this time period and around Umapad Elementary School so that impact can be seen and measured easily.

Invaluable expertise

Professor Christopher Tredwin, Head of Plymouth University Peninsula School of Dentistry, commented: ‘We are extremely proud of Ruth and Rob for their contribution to this initiative.

‘Their skills and expertise will be invaluable not only in ensuring that local children get dental treatment, but also that they and their teachers are provided with the information and knowledge needed to maintain a healthy mouth.’

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