With the creation of the Peninsula Dental School in 2006, the University has been working to address health inequalities in the region, and in particular the issue of access to an NHS dentist. Undergraduate students learn their skills in four dental education facilities (DEF) – two in Plymouth, one in Exeter, and one in Truro – alongside specific community engagement projects.
Last year, students treated more than 5,300 patients under supervision, across 20,000 appointments. And qualified staff undertook a further 2,000 appointments for more complicated cases, such as restorative dentistry. Indeed, the Economic Impact Report unveiled in 2018 estimated that dental treatment delivered by staff contributed around £9.4 million in quality of life gains.
Christina Worle, of the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise ( PDSE), which oversees the University’s community-facing dentistry work, is one such member of staff making a huge impact upon the community and student experience as well. A graduate of the University’s dentistry degree from 2015, Christina had been working at a practice in Bristol when she applied for a role in the PDSE. She now works as a general dentist at the Devonport DEF, and supervises dental students, as well as stepping in to handle more complex cases. And, in addition to studying for her MSc Restorative Dentistry at the University, she runs a dedicated community clinic every Monday, focusing upon those people that are or have been homeless.
Christina says: “Many of the patients I see can have fairly complex lives, and they present with a full range of issues. Some haven’t been to a dentist for many years. Some have been heroin addicts and have been on methadone, which can be very sugary and cause severe tooth decay. Some patients have had long term dental pain, and others are missing teeth, and there isn’t a great deal of NHS provision for these patients in Plymouth.”