It was the first new dental school to be created in the UK for 40 years: a symbol of a national commitment to increase the number of training places available in the profession.
Now, after a decade of teaching, research, and award-winning community engagement, the University of Plymouth's Peninsula Dental School has become an integral part of the University and a key component of the health and wellbeing landscape for the region.
In that time, the Peninsula Dental School has produced 287 new dentists, many of whom have remained in the South West to build their careers, and treated more than 18,000 people through NHS appointments at the four Dental Education Facilities in Plymouth, Exeter and Truro. And then there are the many community groups, charities, schools and other organisations that have benefitted from working with the students, consultants and support staff of the Peninsula Dental School, on events ranging from tooth-brushing clubs to triage sessions, animated films to advice and counselling.
“Ten years is a significant milestone for us,” says Professor Chris Tredwin, Head of the Peninsula Dental School. “In that time we have been at the cutting edge of new and innovative ways to train the dentists of tomorrow. And the results have been impressive: not only have we produced superb dentists who are empathetic to their patients and fully equipped to excel in the profession, but we’re addressing oral health needs across the South West, and have seen our methods adopted by other dental schools in the UK and further afield.”
The Peninsula Dental School was formally announced on 26 January 2006, and would come to take its place alongside the Peninsula Medical School, at the time jointly run by the Universities of Plymouth and Exeter, in the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry. The first students walked through the door in September 2007, and in early 2008 it opened its first Dental Education Facility (DEF), in Exeter.
“I came to Plymouth University as the inaugural Dean of the Peninsula Dental School in May 2006,” says Professor Elizabeth Kay, Associate Dean of Equality and Inclusion at the University of Plymouth's Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. “At the time, I said that the post represented an opportunity to put in place a programme that would be radical, reflect modern approaches to teaching, and equip practitioners with the skills and abilities to adapt to rapidly changing professional roles. I am delighted that we have achieved and continue to achieve those objectives.”
The DEFs are where Plymouth students treat NHS patients under the supervision of a qualified dental health professional as part of their studies, and they define the innovative approach taken by the Peninsula Dental School. In 2015, for example, 267 students delivered 88,210 clinical procedures across 20,182 appointments – with some 9,000 patients being treated on average each year. Where treatments are beyond the capabilities of students, they are handled by staff, and these have included periodontology, prosthetics, endodontics, conservation, minor oral surgery, paediatric, and special care.