Brightening smiles from Plymouth to Ghana and beyond

Current dental student Yewande Oduwole's mission to improve dental health for all

No matter what you are studying there is always a way that you can make an impact and a positive change in someone’s life.

Yewande Oduwole

I haven't always wanted to be a dentist

When I was growing up I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I knew I liked working with and talking to people and I enjoyed science. After some research I came across dentistry which combines my love for science, working with people and its practicality was a bonus. The main thing that helped me decide was doing work experience at some dental practices which allowed me to gain a deeper insight into what the career entailed. After that I developed a real love for dentistry and I knew that it was exactly what I wanted to set my mind on doing. After all, your smile is one of the first things that people see!

Action-packed course

A typical day studying dentistry at Plymouth consists of going to lectures or clinics from 9–5. The course is definitely action-packed. They have a lot to teach us in the five years. In the first and second years the lectures are more focused around the scientific principles of dentistry, microbiology and the anatomy of the head and neck. The third year starts to become more clinical with more time to see patients and provide treatments which is something I really enjoy. I feel that even though the course is five years long you progress and develop different skills during each year.

Valuable patient contact

My favourite part of learning is the early patient contact the course offers. We start seeing patients midway through our first year and that really creates a good foundation to start building our skills. The clinics are all very modern, as a brand new dental school we have state-of-the-art facilities.

This patient contact is something that is very unique to Plymouth as a course – I don’t think many other universities allow you to see patients from your first year and when I tell other prospective dental students they are surprised.

Yewande Oduwole using a surgical microscope.
Yewande Oduwole's taking impressions.
Yewande Oduwole's first proper day in the dental department volunteering in Ghana.
Yewande Oduwole using 'Bob' the phantom head

Educating the local community

Community engagement is really fun, too. Each year we have a module called Inter-Professional Engagement (IPE) which allows us to use our skills to develop the community in Plymouth. We visited the Nomony Children’s Centre and I got to teach the staff and children all about oral hygiene techniques, we even performed a play. I was the tooth fairy and sang to the children about brushing their teeth. It was fun interacting with the children and teaching them about oral hygiene, even the staff got really stuck in. It made me realise that regardless of age there is always a way you can get someone to understand the importance of their oral health.

Nomony Children's Centre 1
Nomony Children's Centre 2

Making the most of student life

I have grown up with gospel music in London and the University’s Gospel Choir that my friend created really helped me to settle into Plymouth life. The choir achieved quick success by winning ‘Best Newcomer’ in the Students’ Union awards and was even a finalist in the national University Gospel Choir of the Year (UGCY) awards.

We’ve had the chance to perform at the Students’ Union Summer Ball and at numerous weddings in the local area. I feel it’s really important to do other things while you are at university, especially on a course like mine as it allows you to take a break and meet new people.

Turning a hobby into a business

I taught myself how to thread eyebrows when I was in secondary school. I practiced on my friends and then more people asked me to do it and before I knew it, it became a business. I slowly started to build a client base in Plymouth in my first year of halls through business cards and my social media accounts. It can get quite difficult balancing the business with studying but I make sure to spread out my clients throughout the week.

The main piece of advice I would give to students is to get involved in different extra-curricular activities, develop new skills and make the most of the skills you already have. A good way to look at it is to pretend you have graduated and are looking back at how you spent your time at university. Just ask yourself, apart from my degree what else have I gained from university?

Yewande Oduwole - Salem Christian
Campus Fellowship
Salem Campus Fellowship
Yewande Oduwole - Salem Christian
Campus Fellowship singing
Singing in the Salem Campus Fellowship
Yewande Oduwole - Plymouth Gospel Choir
Gospel Choir
Yewande Oduwole - Plymouth
Gospel Choir winning the award for Best Newcomer at UPSU awards, with friend
Ruth that created the choir
Winning 'Best Newcomer'

Providing free dental care in Ghana

This was definitely one of my favourite experiences and something I would love to do again in the future.

In the summer of 2018, I had the amazing experience of going to Ghana thanks to Work the World, who offered me a dental volunteer project. I chose Ghana because it was closest to Nigeria, which is where I was born. I did some fundraising and also had a donation from the charity Well Connected and the African Caribbean Dental Association.

The trip was one of the best experiences of my life. I managed to learn so many different things and it really opened my eyes. I was based at the Effia-Nkwanta Hospital, a government-funded hospital which lacked a lot of vital resources and faces immense pressure. Most people come in serious pain and a lot of them hadn't seen a dentist their whole life.

The hospital only had one working chair, and even then the light on it didn't work, so we had to use the torch on our phones to do the work. This was really shocking for me because in dental school everything is there for you. Despite these challenges, the staff still manage to carry out dentistry work.

The highlight of the trip was going to orphanages and schools to give oral hygiene instructions to them. The kids were really, really interested in learning about their teeth and the models I used to show them how to brush their teeth. What they learnt could mean that for their rest of their lives they never need to have another extraction.

My experience will help me in my fourth year of study and beyond into practice, too, because it gave me a chance to meet a lot of patients and go through a lot of assessments and do a lot of extractions. It helped with both my knowledge and practical skills. I definitely recommend to go out there and volunteer, because you learn a lot and people really do need your help. No matter what you are studying there is always a way that you can make an impact and a positive change in someone’s life.

Yewande Oduwole working at the Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital
The Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital
Preparing dental resource at the Rafiki Orphanage in Winneba, Ghana.
Preparing dental resources
Yewande Oduwole visited Kow Nketsia Junior High School to deliver an interactive oral health lesson.
An interactive oral health lesson
Yewande Oduwole visited the Amazing Grace orphanage in Takoradi, Ghana.
The Amazing Grace orphanage

Using YouTube to improve oral health

I initially decided to set up a YouTube channel to help people get into dentistry.

When I applied for dentistry the first time I didn’t get in. I would definitely say that was one of the toughest moments of my life. I was really upset and so close to giving up and doing something else. But I tried again and got into Plymouth. Applying again was definitely one of the best decisions I made, Plymouth gave me that second chance. 

My YouTube videos are focused on inspiring future dental students to show them there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, even if everything doesn’t go to plan. I get lots of emails from prospective students and I help to answer their questions and guide them along the way. I also try to educate the public about their oral health in my videos. I recently made a video about ten common mistakes we make when brushing your teeth. I got a lot of positive feedback and people have made changes to the way they brush their teeth. My main aim is to get people to make changes, as long as one person has made a positive change from one my videos then I have done my job.

The ten common mistakes we make brushing our teeth

You can follow my dental journey, by subscribing to my Youtube Channel where my aim is to help improve oral hygiene.

Did you know that it’s advised not to constantly brush your teeth back and forth, because it can cause gum recession?

Video: I share some things you have probably been doing wrong your whole life and didn't even realise! >>

Award winning

Winning Entrepreneur Dental Student of the Year at the Future of Dentistry Awards was the icing on the cake.

I was really grateful to have won the award for the Entrepreneur Dental Student of the Year. I won the award mainly for starting my eyebrow threading business and used the majority of the money to go towards my Ghana volunteering project. Since then it has given me the chance to network with dentists and dental students that I would have never met.

Yewande Oduwole winning the Entrepreneurial Dental Student of the year at the Future of Dentistry Awards
Entrepreneurial Dental Student of the Year 2018
Yewande Oduwole speaking at the 

African and Caribbean Dental Association (ACDA) dinner about volunteering in Ghana.
Speaking at the annual ACDA dinner
Yewande Oduwole at the African and Caribbean Dental Association dinner. 

Yewande was the first ever to receive a student scholarship.
Receiving a student scholarship from ACDA

The future

In five years I hope to have developed further in my career as a dentist.

I may decide to specialise in either orthodontics, pediatrics or cosmetic dentistry, as I have a lot of interest in those areas. 

I am passionate about helping the younger generation, so I hope to continue to do more of this, as well as to provide oral hygiene care to places that have limited access to it.