Dental students support parents and toddlers on healthy eating

A group of Year 2 dental students from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, with support from the Community Engagement Team at Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise, are working with parents and children at Sure Start to help raise awareness of good oral health and the link to a healthy diet.

The project is part of the Inter Professional Engagement (IPE) segment of the students’ studies, which sees dental students working with a wide variety of groups within the community to raise awareness of good oral health practices and improve access to dental care.

The students working with Sure Start families are focusing on pregnancy, breastfeeding and weaning, with an emphasis on reducing intake of sugary food and drinks, and salt. The project will result in advice and support for parents-to-be and new parents and will be simple and straightforward to use.

The project comes at a time when there is heightened concern about poor diet, obesity and oral health in the very young. Earlier this year, in its first report on the oral health of three-year-olds, Public Health England stated that 12 per cent of children of that age were reported to have experienced dental decay. Last month NICE issued guidance for schools and nurseries about brushing children’s teeth, and dental treatments remain the most common reason for children to be admitted to hospital – more so than for tonsillitis.

The students have so far provided cookery sessions with children and their parents, as well as advice and support on looking after little teeth at home.

Dental student Serena Manohar said:

“We are really enjoying working with the children and their parents, and they seem to be having as much fun too – as well as taking on board ways to incorporate healthy eating and good oral care on a day-to-day basis. We’re really grateful to them for taking part.”

Claire Davis, a parent, said: 

“This session has given my son the opportunity to try food that he wouldn't have tried before at home. Now I know he will try new things I am going to try a different meal each week.”

Tracey Best, Parent Employment & Training Advisory for LARK Children's Centre, added: 

“Parents really enjoyed the opportunity to work with students and Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry in sharing ideas and interactive tips around healthy eating and promotion of the importance of dental care.” 

Dr. Robert Witton, director of the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise which sets up IPE placement for Plymouth University dental students, added: 

“Without the support of local community groups such as Sure Start, we would not be able to provide dental students with such a breadth of experience. As well as contributing to the training of future dentists, we are also addressing oral health inequalities in the region – which is a great result for everyone concerned.”