Celebrating 10 years of dental care in Cornwall

Staff and students at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry are celebrating providing five years of oral health care and support to the people of Cornwall.

In January 2010 an innovative dental clinical teaching facility opened in Truro, which has contributed to a sea change in the way in which dentists are trained and helped to achieve better oral health in Cornwall – with thousands receiving NHS dental care where they may not have done before.

The Truro Dental Education Facility (DEF) is run by the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise and is where third year dental students from Plymouth University treat NHS patients under the supervision of qualified dental health professionals, as part of their training.

It is one of four DEFs in the South West, with two others in Plymouth and one in Exeter.

The rationale behind the DEF programme is two-fold: to prepare the dentists of the future for the NHS by providing training in an environment which mirrors that of an NHS practice; and to raise awareness of good oral health and increase access to dental care for local communities.

The sort of treatments and services that take place at the Truro DEF include:

  • Dental check-ups, oral examination and diagnosis including X-rays
  • Advice for preventing tooth decay and gum disease including tooth brushing and oral hygiene instruction, dietary advice and the application of sealants that protect the surfaces of teeth
  • Assessment and treatment of gum disease
  • Fillings and crowns
  • Extractions 
  • Dentures.

Over the past five years the Truro DEF has seen nearly 2,600 NHS patients and provided nearly 17,500 appointments. It has been the focus of interaction with a wide variety of groups from communities across Cornwall. More than 300 dental students have received training at the Truro DEF.

One patient who has been with the Truro DEF since it opened is Joy Brook from near St. Agnes. Mrs. Brook responded to requests for patients because she is a supporter of the NHS and wanted to give something back. She has received a wide range of treatment.

She said: 

“The students and staff have been amazing. Their attention to detail is so good. Whatever treatment I have received has been done to a high standard and I am very happy with the results. Everyone at the dental school is so caring and patient. If anyone is thinking about signing up to be a patient, I would say “Go for it!” “

Another satisfied patient is Paul Edwards from Truro. Like Mrs. Brook, Mr. Edwards has been a patient since the Truro DEF opened. He has had crowns, fillings, restorative work, a dental bridge and general repair treatments.

He said: 

“Being a patient of the Truro DEF is an excellent experience. I can’t speak too highly of the students or the professionals who supervise them, or of the dental nurses and reception staff – they all make you feel welcome and supported. I would thoroughly recommend people to go there. Although the appointments are longer than those usually expected at National Health dentist practices, the treatments are free, the students are keen with good skills and the professional supervisors make sure things are done correctly. It’s just a good place to go.”

Free NHS dental treatment is available at the Truro DEF, but because it is a training process appointments take longer than at a usual dental practice. The Truro DEF is in the process of recruiting more children for treatment, and anyone who would like to be a patient should call +44 1872 258100.

The DEF in Cornwall represented a capital investment of over £11.6 million funded through the Department of Health, the Strategic Health Authority, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the ERDF Convergence Programme, the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry and the National Dental Workforce Unit.

It was officially opened by HRH The Duchess of Gloucester in May 2010.

Professor Christopher Tredwin, Head of Plymouth University Peninsula School of Dentistry, said: 

“This is an important milestone for us and one which is a real achievement. My congratulations go to staff and students, and my thanks go to the people of Cornwall like Mrs. Brook and Mr. Edwards who have, and continue to, support us.”

Professor Robert Witton, Director at the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise, added: 

“The combination of leading edge dental education and a commitment to improving oral health and access to dental care is a powerful one. We are looking forward to developing our community outreach in Cornwall, with exciting projects designed for a wide variety of groups in the wider community.”