Tooth Defenders to the rescue!
Nicola Brown from the Community Engagement Team at PDSE with pupils at Prince Rock Primary School

Schoolchildren at a primary school in Plymouth are improving their own oral health and that of their classmates, thanks to the innovative Tooth Defenders scheme introduced by the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise (PDSE) at Plymouth University.

Members of the Community Engagement Team at PDSE have been working with pupils and staff at Prince Rock Primary School to bring the Tooth Defenders scheme to the school’s Breakfast Club.

The objective of the Tooth Defenders scheme is to establish a supervised tooth brushing club as part of the Breakfast Club, supported by members of the school’s staff trained as dental ambassadors and giving the pupils the opportunity to be recruited as a Tooth Defender.

Over the course of a week the team have run a training workshop for staff dental ambassadors, where they have been taught how to brush children’s teeth safely and effectively and how to supervise the tooth brushing club.

The Community Engagement Team have worked with the pupils to promote oral health and awareness, learn good brushing techniques, and make good diet and nutrition choices. They have also provided information about accessing local dental care.

They have also recruited Tooth Defenders among the pupils themselves, whose role it will be to help their fellow pupils improve their oral health and adopt healthy lifestyle choices.

Poor oral health can lead to all manner of problems for children. They may experience pain, disturbed sleep and disrupted eating patterns. Children with oral health problems are more likely to need emergency dental treatment and antibiotics, and be admitted to hospital to have teeth removed under general anaesthetic.

Robert Witton is Director of Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise. He said:

“It is a sad fact that around 26,000 children aged between five and nine are admitted to hospital for dental treatment in the UK, for conditions which are on the whole preventable through better understanding and adoption of good oral health routines. Unfortunately, Plymouth is a city with poor oral health and oral health inequalities.”
He added:

“The Tooth Defenders initiative has been designed to give primary school children and those who are responsible for them the information, techniques and confidence to look after their teeth properly by giving them ownership of the process. Not only does this result in better oral health for children, but it frees them from pain, gives them increased confidence and encourages them to see their dentist on a regular basis by taking away the fear and anxiety of a visit. We also hope that it will encourage youngsters to think about dentistry as a career!”
Mrs Minter, Breakfast Club Manager at Prince Rock Primary School, commented:
“We have all thoroughly enjoyed working with Karen and Nicky and seeing the children grow in confidence and independence when brushing their teeth. They really liked the brightly coloured toothbrushes and having their own tube of toothpaste.”
Ms Bird, Breakfast Club Assistant, added:

“The children have been amazing and really enjoyed becoming Tooth Defenders. They are telling all their friends and family and have even shown me how to brush my teeth and not forget to give my tongue a quick brush at the end too.”
Max aged six said:

“I loved it when we dressed up as dentists.”

While Jack aged eight commented:

“I have really enjoyed it, thank you, and definitely learnt something new. I would 100 per cent like to learn more about teeth.”
As part of the Colgate Bright Smiles Bright Futures initiative the team plans to enter the project to receive an award which will be judged by a panel from the British Dental Association (BDA) and British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry (BASCD).