Professor Robert Witton

Professor Robert Witton

Professor of Community Dentistry

Peninsula Dental School (Faculty of Health)



Robert Witton is a General Dental Council registered specialist and Consultant in Dental Public Health. He is Professor of Community Dentistry in the dental school and has a broad portfolio of interests across education, clinical leadership, dental services, public health, social enterprise and health policy. Robert arrived at Peninsula Dental School in 2008 to undertake his higher specialty training in dental public health assuming a substantive role in 2012 following successful completion of a CCST. Since then Robert has had a leading role in school strategy, development of its clinical placement arm – Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise CIC and the community aspects of the curriculum.

Prior to this Robert worked at Portsmouth Dental Academy and before that completed a successful short service commission in the Royal Army Dental Corps and worked in primary care dentistry for 10 years prior to specialisation. Through each of these roles, Robert developed an interest in dental education, dental public health and supporting communities to improve population oral health.

Robert is the current Chief Executive of Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise (PDSE) CIC, which is the main clinical placement provider for students from the dental school.

Externally Robert is the current Chair of the British Dental Association Dental Public Health Committee. In this role, he supports and highlights the importance of Dental Public Health across the UK, working to ensure Dental Public health integrated into national plans for tackling poor population health and supporting Dental Public Health workforce development. This includes work with the BDA and national stakeholders to promote oral health to the public.

He is also the Training Programme Director for postgraduate specialty training in Dental Public Health for the Southwest of England, Oxford and Thames Valley.

Internationally, he has contributed to the FDI’s expert working group for migrant oral health, supporting international awareness and implementation of the FDI’s Oral Health Advocacy Guide for refugees.

He has also joined an alumni network of senior dentists across the world following his participation in 2019 in the Senior Dental Leaders Programme hosted by Harvard University and Kings College London. Robert continues to work with international colleagues and the Child Global Dental Fund supporting development of dental education and public health programmes. 

Robert is passionate about preventing oral disease and promoting oral health in the UK and internationally, and about the aim of making quality oral healthcare affordable, accessible and available for all.


BDS (Birmingham University) 1999
MFGDP(UK) 2003
MFDS RCS(Eng) 2005
DPDS (Bristol University) 2009
Certificate in Clinical Periodontology (UCLAN) 2009
MSc Public and Community Health (Universities of Exeter & Plymouth) 2012
FDS (Dental Public Health) RCS(Eng) 2012
FHEA 2016

FDFT(Edin) 2017
FRSPH 2019
Honorary Fellowship in Homelessness and Inclusion Health 2021

Professional membership

General Dental Council Reg No. 75972
Performer number - 75972-5F1
British Dental Association
British Society for the Study of Community Dentistry 
Fellow in Dental Surgery Royal College of Surgeons of England

Roles on external bodies

British Dental Association Public Health Committee (2019 to present)
British Society for the Study of Community Dentistry Consultants and Specialists Group (2019 to present)
Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK) Faculty Academy (2020 to present)
World Dental Federation (FDI) Expert working group on migrant oral health (2021 to present)



Teaching interests

Robert is an experienced dental educator with an interest in community-based dental education, dental public health and health policy. He has delivered teaching and supervision at all levels of undergraduate and postgraduate training. In addition, he is an experienced educational supervisor in NHS dental public health specialty training and holds several examinerships from undergraduate to consultant level for Higher Education Institutes and Royal Colleges.

He also supervises postgraduate research students and holds several senior education roles.

Staff serving as external examiners

South West Population and Public Health Academy Board (2018 to present)

South West Regional Committee for Speciality Training in Dentistry (2017 to present)

Health Education England (HEE Southwest, Oxford and Thames Valley) Training Programme Director in Dental Public Health (2017 to present)

ISFE Examiner (the four Royal Colleges) in dental public health (2015 to present)

RCS England Examiner in dental public health (2019 to present)

External Examiner Queen Mary University of London (2019 to present)



Research interests

Robert has a broad interest in research and evaluation spanning his various roles in dental education, public health and community dentistry. His work centres on community engagement and outreach to better understand the oral health needs of vulnerable population groups and their access to care. This work often starts with students and by linking together clinical education, oral health needs assessment and dental services it generates an inclusive and multidisciplinary approach to identifying gaps in evidence and optimal approaches to targeting oral health inequalities and inequities.

As an active Consultant in Dental Public Health, and through various national and international roles Robert is passionate about improving population oral health, supporting the dental community and promoting effective dental policy.

Examples include working with the General Dental Council to understand mental health and wellbeing in the dental profession and work with PHE and NHS to support national dental reform.

Other research

Ahmed A, Bannerman N-L, Paisi M, Potterton R, Witton R. A dental student perspective on the impacts of an inter-professional engagement module. Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship 2020 13(1) 111-113

Coelho C, Witton R, Smith W. Assisting communication in the dental setting; a student team working initiative with stroke patients. Journal of Disability and Oral Health 2018 19/1, 10-13

Witton R. Oral health and diabetes – where next for the dental team? Dental Health 2010 49(3), 6-9

Witton R. Open wide – a discussion of diabetes and oral health Diabetes Update 2009; Autumn: 28-32


Co-editor. Standards in Dentistry. Second Edition. Faculty of General Dental Practice. London, 2018

“Open Wide and Step Inside” storybook for children. First edition. Witton and Smith. Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise CIC, 2018

Book chapter. Prevention of dental caries in “Dentistry at a glance”. First Edition. Edited by E Kay. Wiley Blackwell, 2016

Other published reports, policy contributions and articles

Witton R. The future of dental public health. Br Dental J In Practice 2021 34, 10-11

Witton R. Scrapping PHE, a threat to oral health? Br Dent J 2020 229, 272

Witton R. How has COVID-19 affected dental provision for the homeless? (2020). Available at:

Witton R (representing the British Dental Association). 2020 Comprehensive Spending Review. Joint representation on local public health funding to HM Treasury (2020). Available at:

Witton R. Written evidence in response to the Health Select Committee Inquiry into dental services (2019). Available on the Parliament website at

Witton R. Underprivileged in Plymouth receive dental care (2019). Springer Science and Business Media LLC 01/01/190001/01/1900

Oral care and people with learning disabilities. Chapter 12 – For people with learning disabilities to provide peer support. Public Health England (2019). Available at

Witton R. Open Wide and Step Inside. Research Outreach. Issue 111. (2019)

Harman C, Allen Z, Nelder R, Witton R. Plymouth Oral Health Needs Assessment. Plymouth City Council (2019)

Warren S, Allen Z, Harwood P, Witton R. Special Care and Paediatric Southwest Needs Assessment Summary Report. NHS England and NHS Improvement (2019)

Allen Z, Harwood P, Ireland A, John J, Oliver J, Scott D, Sowerbutts J, Warren S, Witton R. South of England Paediatric and Special Care Needs Assessment Framework. Public Health England (2018)

Harwood P, Witton R, Allen Z. South West Orthodontic Needs Assessment. Public Health England (2015)

Harwood P, Witton R, Patel R, Woof M. South West Oral Health Needs Assessment. Public Health England (2014)


Fighting for prevention in oral health. British Dental Association. Available at Fighting for prevention in oral health ( (November 2020)

Scrapping PHE, a threat to oral health? British Dental Association. Available at (November 2020)

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

Post-doctoral supervision

To investigate the oral health impact of the dental school and PDSE in Devon and Cornwall. Second supervisor (2017 – 2021)

Doctor of Philosophy  

Martha Paisi ‘Obesity and dental caries in children in Plymouth’ (2014-2017)

Nicole Thomas 'Testing an oral health intervention in a highly vulnerable child population' (2017- )

MSc Supervision

Does the socket shield technique for immediate implant placement result in reduced bone resorption and improved aesthetic outcomes, compared with the placement of immediate implants alone in the anterior zone (2019 – 2020)

A systematic review of calcium hydroxide and mineral trioxide aggregate in managing pulp exposures (2018-2019)

A systematic review of chlorhexidine and hypochlorite in root canal treatment (2017 - 2018)

Academic Clinical Fellow

NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in Dental Public Health. Educational Supervisor (2017 – 2020)


Grants & contracts

Research grants 

£69,166. “The impact of inter-professional education in the dental curriculum on students’ views towards social accountability.” Principal Investigator (2020)

£143,029 (external). Post-doctoral fellowship. “Identifying Factors Influencing Oral health Habits and Dental care Access among Children and Young People with Autism: Evidence Synthesis and Qualitative Stakeholder Research” Co-investigator (2020)

£216,484K (external). NIHR Public Health Practice Evaluation Scheme. Health Visitor Oral Health Improvement Pilot (HVOHIP). Co-investigator (2019)

£2,500 (external). GSK and Association for Dental Education in Europe. Advancement of dentistry in society scholarship award (2018)

£5,800 (external). GSK Oral and Dental Research Trust. Co-investigator (2017)

£128,000 (external). Post-doctoral fellowship. To investigate the oral health impact of the dental school and PDSE in Devon and Cornwall. Co-investigator (2017)

£89,000 (external). Wrigley Global Oral Health Fund. To deliver and improve the “open wide and step inside” oral health education intervention in Plymouth primary schools. Witton R (2017)

£5,000 (internal). Plymouth University Medical Education Award ‘Exploring transformative and troublesome moments for medical and dental students during social engagement pathways’. Co-investigator (2016)

£60,000 (internal). Plymouth University. Preliminary investigation of the effectiveness of an intervention to prevent oral disease in a highly vulnerable child population. Co-investigator (2016)

£78,000 (external). Wrigley Global Oral Health Fund. To deliver the “open wide and step inside” oral health education intervention using Immersive Vision Technology in Plymouth primary schools. Principal Investigator (2015)

£60,000 (internal). Plymouth University. Investigation into the relationship between dental caries and obesity in young children. Co-investigator (2014)

£109,000 (external). Wrigley Global Oral Health Fund. To develop an innovative pilot oral health education intervention for children aged 4-5 years using Immersive Vision Technology. Principal Investigator (2013)

£5,000 (external). NHS North Devon. To investigate referrals from primary care to specialist services for routine exodontia. Co-investigator (2012)

Social impact and community grants 

£470,254 (external). NHS England. Devon supervised tooth brushing scheme and evaluation. Principal Investigator (2019)

£3,500 (external). North Yard Community Trust. “Creating Smiles” oral health resources box for distribution and training. Principal Investigator (2017)

£100,000 (external). Plymouth City Council. To deliver the oral health component of the Child Poverty Action Plan (2017)

£10,000 (external). Public Health England. To develop marketing campaign for children’s oral health in Plymouth. Principal Investigator (2017)

£9,200 (external). Active Plus. To co-deliver with ActivePlus “Talking Teeth” an oral health support network for veterans and isolated rural elderly in Cornwall. Principal Investigator (2017)

£3,000 (external). Drake Impact Fund. To train child care workers to become ‘dental buddies’ and to support delivery of supervised tooth brushing clubs. Principal Investigator (2016)

£10,000 (external). British Dental Health Foundation. To pilot supervised tooth brushing programmes in Surestart centres in deprived areas of Plymouth. Principal Investigator (2011)






Key publications

Key publications are highlighted

Witton R & Paisi M (2021) 'Dental care for homeless persons: Time for National Health Service reform' Public Health in Practice 2, 100194-100194 , DOI
Witton R, Plessas A, Wheat H, Baines R, Delgado MB, Mills I & Paisi M (2021) 'The future of dentistry post-COVID-19: perspectives from Urgent Dental Care centre staff in England' British Dental Journal (BDJ) , DOI Open access
Plessas A, Paisi M, Baines R, Wheat H, Delgado MB, Mills I & Witton R (2021) 'Frontline experiences and perceptions of Urgent Dental Care centre staff in England during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative study' British Dental Journal (BDJ) , DOI Open access
Thomas N, Kay E, Witton R & Quinn C (2021) 'Comparison of a full arch digital photographic assessment of caries prevalence in 5-year-old children to an established visual assessment method: a cross-sectional study' BDJ Open 7, (1) , DOI Open access
Witton R & Paisi M (2021) 'The benefits of an innovative community engagement model in dental undergraduate education' Education for Primary Care 1-5 , DOI Open access
Allen Z & Witton R (2021) 'Investing to prevent: Description of an innovative approach to commissioning a supervised toothbrushing programme across multiple local authorities in England' COMMUNITY DENTAL HEALTH 38, (2) 66-70 Author Site , DOI
Witton R (2021) 'Is social enterprise good for dentistry?' British Dental Journal 230, (10) 642-643 , DOI
McColl E, Witton R & Tredwin C (2021) 'Pandemic progress' British Dental Journal 230, (9) 556-557 , DOI
Ali K, McColl E, Tredwin C, Hanks S, Coelho C & Witton R (2021) 'Addressing racial inequalities in dental education: decolonising the dental curricula' British Dental Journal 230, (3) 165-169 Publisher Site , DOI Open access
Witton R, McColl E & Tredwin C (2021) 'Students' return to clinic' British Dental Journal 230, (1) 3-3 , DOI Open access
Paisi M, Witton R & Plessas A (2021) 'Is there an association between drug use and oral health conditions?' Evidence-Based Dentistry 22, (1) 46-47 , DOI
Paisi M, Witton R, Radford P & Plessas A (2021) 'What is the global prevalence of dental healthcare needs and unmet dental needs among adolescents?' Evidence-Based Dentistry 22, (1) 8-9 , DOI
Paisi M, Baines R, Burns L, Plessas A, Radford P, Shawe J & Witton R (2020) 'Barriers and facilitators to dental care access among asylum seekers and refugees in highly developed countries: a systematic review' BMC Oral Health 20, (1) , DOI Open access
Witton R & Paisi M (2020) 'Homelessness on the curriculum?' British Dental Journal 229, (8) 501-501 , DOI Open access
Paisi M, Witton R, Withers L, Plessas A, Burrows M, Morrison S, McDonald L & Kay E (2020) 'Strategies to improve oral health behaviours and dental access for people experiencing homelessness: a qualitative study' British Dental Journal , DOI Open access
Paisi M, Baines R, Worle C, Withers L & Witton R (2020) 'Evaluation of a community dental clinic providing care to people experiencing homelessness: A mixed methods approach' Health Expectations , DOI Open access
Edwards D, Burns L, Witton R & Tredwin C (2020) 'MTA or calcium hydroxide for direct pulp capping in fully developed permanent teeth: a systematic review' Endodontic Practice Today 14, (2) 91-102 Open access
Paisi M, Plessas A, Pampaka D, Burns L & Wilton R (2020) 'Effect of treating carious teeth on children's and adolescents' anthropometric outcomes: A systematic review of randomised controlled trials' COMMUNITY DENTAL HEALTH 37, (1) 32-38 Author Site , DOI Open access
Paisi M, Witton R & Plessas A (2019) 'Is there an association between children's screen use and cariogenic diet?' Evidence-Based Dentistry 20, (4) 115-116 , DOI Open access
Paisi M, Kay E, Burrows M, Withers L, Plessas A, McDonald L & Witton R (2019) ''Teeth Matter': engaging people experiencing homelessness with oral health promotion efforts' British Dental Journal 227, (3) 187-191 , DOI Open access
Webb L, Sandhu S, Morton L, Witton R, Withers L, Worle C & Paisi M (2019) 'A dental student view on learning gained through Inter-Professional Engagement with people experiencing homelessness' Education for Primary Care 1-3 , DOI Open access
Witton R (2019) 'Inconsistent approach in schools' British Dental Journal 226, (12) 912-913 , DOI Open access
Paisi M, Witton R, Burrows M, Allen Z, Plessas A, Withers L, McDonald L & Kay E (2019) 'Management of plaque in people experiencing homelessness using 'peer education': a pilot study' British Dental Journal (BDJ) 226, (11) 860-866 , DOI Open access
Paisi M, Kay E, Bennett C, Kaimi I, Witton R, Nelder R & Lapthorne D (2019) 'Body mass index and dental caries in young people: a systematic review' BMC Pediatrics 19, (1) , DOI Open access
Witton R & Smith W (2019) 'A service evaluation of the “Open Wide and Step Inside” school oral health programme' BDJ Open 5, (1) , DOI Open access
Patel R, Witton R, Potterton R, Smith W & Kaimi (Deceased) I (2018) 'Dental Public Health in Action: Understanding oral health care needs and oral health-related quality of life in vulnerable adults in Plymouth' Community Dental Health 35, (4) 197-200 Author Site , DOI Open access
Paisi M, Kay E, Kaimi I, Witton R, Nelder R, Christophi C & Lapthorne D (2018) 'Obesity and dental caries in young children in Plymouth, United Kingdom: A Spatial Analysis' COMMUNITY DENTAL HEALTH 35, (1) 58-64 Author Site , DOI Open access
Paisi M, Kay E, Kaimi I, Witton R, Nelder R, Potterton R & Lapthorne D (2018) 'Obesity and caries in four-to-six year old English children: a cross-sectional study' BMC Public Health 18, (1) , DOI Open access
Witton R, Potterton R & Smith W (2017) 'Communities in action: developing a dental ambassador training programme for adults with learning disability' Community Dental Health 34, (2) 77-79 Author Site , DOI Open access
Witton RV & Moles DR (2015) 'Identifying dentists' attitudes towards prevention guidance using Q-sort methodology' COMMUNITY DENTAL HEALTH 32, (2) 72-76 Author Site , DOI Open access
Witton RV & Moles DR (2013) 'Barriers and facilitators that influence the delivery of prevention guidance in health service dental practice: a questionnaire study of practising dentists in Southwest England' Community Dent Health 30, (2) 71-76 Author Site
Witton R (2010) 'Bite size oral health promotion' Dent Update 37, (6) 382-388 Author Site , DOI
Ethunandan M, Witton R, Hoffman G, Spedding A & Brennan PA (2006) 'Atypical features in pleomorphic adenoma--a clinicopathologic study and implications for management' Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg 35, (7) 608-612 Author Site , DOI
Witton R, Henthorn K, Ethunandan M, Harmer S & Brennan PA (2005) 'Neurological complications following extrusion of sodium hypochlorite solution during root canal treatment' Int Endod J 38, (11) 843-848 Author Site , DOI
Witton R & Brennan PA (2005) 'Severe tissue damage and neurological deficit following extravasation of sodium hypochlorite solution during routine endodontic treatment' Br Dent J 198, (12) 749-750 Author Site , DOI
Witton RV (2002) 'Facial sinus of dental origin' Dent Update 29, (10) Author Site
Moles D; Tredwin C; McColl E; Robert W; Burns L (2018) Standards in Dentistry. London, England Faculty of General Dental Practitioners (UK)
Plessas A, Paisi M, Bryce M, Burns L, O'Brien T, Witton R & Hanoch Y (2021) Mental Health and Wellbeing in Dentistry: A Rapid Evidence Assessment. General Dental Council Publisher Site
Other Publications
(2019) Underprivileged in Plymouth receive dental care. Springer Science and Business Media LLC , DOI Open access


Other academic activities

As Chief Executive of PDSE Robert is proud to lead an award-winning social enterprise with particular expertise in clinical dental education, community outreach and working with vulnerable community groups to address oral health inequalities. The work of PDSE has featured nationally and internationally through numerous education, dental, business and social enterprise awards. PDSE is currently listed in the top 100 social enterprises in the country through the NatwestSE100 Index and in 2020 Robert was shortlisted for a national award in leadership in the sector.

 Robert has significant expert sector knowledge in social enterprise and design of dental services. Robert has been instrumental in the organisations development since its inception in 2013, first in developing the business model and latterly in developing its mission statement, vision and values working with employees and stakeholders to develop an inclusive strategy for growth and innovation. At the heart of this strategy is the emphasis on communities and those who need the most help in society, making PDSE a true social enterprise with social accountability driving its growth and development. This leadership and vision has borne fruit in the successful implementation of numerous projects and programmes, which are influencing national policy and best practice. The social impact and quality of life improvements resulting from these initiatives has been fully evaluated and extend far beyond providing dental services to having positive impacts on people’s lives and families.


Additional information

Professional roles

Professional advice to Makelle Unversity dental school, Ethiopia

Professional advice to Healthservice Commisison, Somaliland

Chief Executive Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise CIC (2019 to present)

Trustee Well Connected Charity (2018 - 2019)

Chair Well Connected Charity (2017 – 2018)

Non-Executive Director, Smile Together CIC (2016 to 2019)

Non-Executive Director, PCH Dental CIC (2013 - 2016)

Executive Director, Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise CIC (2012 to present)