Brighter smiles for disadvantaged children in the UK and Uganda
Dental hygienist Anne Powders talks about the world of possibilities that have opened up for her in the UK and overseas thanks to support from Philips.
Winning a place on the Smile Revolution Oral Health Promotion course thanks to the support of Philips Oral Healthcare has opened opportunities for my professional growth and development I could never have imagined.
I now have an opportunity to follow my life-long passion to bring oral health into schools for young children living in disadvantaged and poor communities.
Through Dentaid’s connections in rural Uganda we have designed our pilot study to bring daily toothbrushing and handwashing to three to six-year-olds in Toowa school. Whilst here in the UK, an exciting development is the new Denplan sponsorship for Dentaid’s Bright Bites. This is a school’s oral health programme for three to six-year-olds targeting children in deprived communities where there is little or no access to affordable dental care.
With the use of innovative oral health education we can capture the interest of children and parents in greatest need of dental care. My journey continues.
Improving children’s oral health
We face some practical challenges at Toowa school as we move forward with our toothbrushing project.
There is the challenge of no running water, poor local phone signal, and limited internet access. Water is essential for any handwashing and tooth brushing project. Each day the children carry buckets of water up the hill from the valley for their daily use. During rainy season, run-off water is collected in large tanks and stored for later use.
I have been so thrilled to connect with local dentists. This way we can forge new professional friendships. Together we have designed our plan for screening the children’s current dental status.
The Toowa school, Toowa charity and the local dental teams are all so happy to have this project. It will help to improve the dental health and well-being of their young children.
However, the pandemic has created its own set of challenges particularly for its implementation. The children have not attended school for several months. So this project is temporarily on hold until 2022.
Transitioning from Smile Uganda to Bright Bites we have received the exciting news that Denplan has partnered with Dentaid as their chosen charity to support in the UK.
This new project will provide dental care to those too poor to pay for and access dental care. This also includes the homeless, refugees and those living in deprived areas.
Dentaid has already actively been reaching and treating the homeless and other impoverished communities in the UK with mobile clinics.
Fresh investment will fund 25 new mobile ‘Denplan Outreach Clinics’. In addition to this Denplan is funding Dentaid’s Bright Bites oral health promotional programme. This is for disadvantaged preschool and primary school children.
We are working together to design innovative content and materials. This will teach young children and their parents about the importance of oral health.
A quarter of children in the UK have dental decay by the time they reach school. The children in areas of deprivation suffer even greater levels of tooth decay.
With the background of the increased backlog of patients exacerbated by the pandemic and growing waiting lists, access to affordable dental care has become an urgent problem in the UK.
The government is currently spending £33 million annually to fund this gap in the provision of dental care. This project will then target the most vulnerable in our society.
I am so privileged to be dental health adviser, to Bright Bites. As well as Dentaid for supporting the overseas projects.
Until now my experience with Dentaid was volunteering in overseas projects in Nepal, Uganda and Sri Lanka.
Now, thanks to Smile Revolution mentorship, which has also been sponsored by Philips Oral Healthcare, I have gained the support to go further with my passion. And to use my experiences to bring about change to the wider global picture by working to achieve sustainable oral health where it is most needed.
For more information about the Smile Revolution course and mentorship sponsored by Philips visit www.smile-revolution.net.
Anne M Powders has a website where you can find out more about her work www.healthyskinandsmiles.com/about.