Project providing free dentistry to those in need wins national award

Pioneering work to provide dental care to vulnerable adults has been recognised with a national industry award.

Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise’s (PDSE) community clinic has been named as a winner in the Oral Health Awards for Best Care of Vulnerable Patients. The clinic, based at the University of Plymouth’s Devonport Dental Education Facility (DEF), offers pro bono treatment to those currently experiencing homelessness in the city.

Work carried out ranges from emergency interventions to relieve pain and infection, to full dental assessments and the delivery of all treatment needed.

The Best Care of Vulnerable Patients award is given to a dental professional, practice or community service providing effective care that meets the specialised needs of a vulnerable patient group. PDSE was able to demonstrate that the community clinic resulted in improvement in both patients’ oral health, and their quality of life as a result.  

PDSE is committed to improving dental health in the South West through treatment, education and training. It runs four DEFs, two in Plymouth and one each in Truro and Exeter, which allow students from the University studying for a career in dental health (as a dentist, nurse, hygienist or therapist) to treat NHS patients under the supervision of qualified and experienced professionals.

PDSE is led by Robert Witton, Director of Social Engagement and Community-Based Dentistry in the University’s Peninsula Dental School, part of the Faculty of Health. The Community Clinic is run by PDSE dentist Christina Worle, Martha Paisi, Senior Research Fellow at the University and Lyndsey Withers, a long-standing volunteer with the Salvation Army who also works with other homeless support services in Plymouth.

Christina said:

“It is a great privilege to be able to positively impact a patient’s self-esteem and confidence and ensure that, where possible, dental treatment can be integrated into a person’s recovery journey.

“Close collaboration between myself, Martha and Lyndsey to ensure that patients are supported from the first meeting is the cornerstone of the clinic, along with the flexibility to accommodate each patient’s potentially complex needs. This award is welcome recognition of the team’s efforts, and the transformative effect they have had for patients.”

Robert Witton added:

“The Community Clinic is incredibly important to PDSE. We currently fund the clinic as part of our contribution to the local area and its residents and in time, we aim for it to grow and support more patients in the city.

“I’m delighted that the team has been recognised for this life changing work.”

The clinic is just one of the projects carried out by PDSE alongside its core business of running the four DEFs. Another, Open Wide Step Inside was recently evaluated and found to have been very successful in delivering oral health messages to primary school children in Key Stage 1.

Targeted at schools in the most deprived wards in Plymouth, where data show children have much worse oral health than in more affluent areas, the project provides resources and support for teachers to integrate oral health guidance into the curriculum. More than 4000 children have participated in the programme so far, with the combination of animation, song, a goody bag including toothbrush and paste and teacher resources proving effective at changing child behaviour and educating parents. 

Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise CIC

As such, everything it does is guided by the need to fulfil its ‘community interest statement’ which sets out its mission and reason for existence as a company.

​Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise (PDSE) is a Community Interest Company (CIC).

Find out more about Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise CIC

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