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 is 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
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
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
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 Specialty 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 2021)
RCS England Examiner in dental public health (2019 to present)
External Examiner Queen Mary University of London (2019 to present)
External Examiner Doctoral Dental Public Health Programme, Trinity College, Dublin ( 2022 to present)
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.
Plessas A, Paisi M, Baines R, Wheat H, Delgado MB, Mills I, Witton R. Working in an urgent dental care hub during the Covid-19 pandemic from a dental nurses’ perspective. Dental Nursing 2022 18(2): 68-70Ahmed 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: https://www.dentistry.co.uk/2020/10/02/covid-affected-dental-provision-homeless/
Witton R (representing the British Dental Association). 2020 Comprehensive Spending Review. Joint representation on local public health funding to HM Treasury (2020). Available at: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/sites/default/files/csr_joint_representation_on_local_public_health_funding_-_24_september_2020.pdf
Witton R. Written evidence in response to the Health Select Committee Inquiry into dental services (2019). Available on the Parliament website at https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-and-social-care-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/dentistry-services-inquiry-17-19/publications/
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 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/oral-care-and-people-with-learning-disabilities/oral-care-and-people-with-learning-disabilities
Witton R. Open Wide and Step Inside. Research Outreach. Issue 111. http://cdn.researchoutreach.org/Flipbooks/RO111/index.html (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 (bda.org) (November 2020)
Scrapping PHE, a threat to oral health? British Dental Association. Available at https://bda.org/news-centre/blog/Pages/Scrapping-PHE-a-threat-to-oral-health.aspx (November 2020)
Research degrees awarded to supervised students
Tom Thompson. To investigate the oral health impact of the dental school and PDSE in Devon and Cornwall (2017 – 2021)
Jo Erwin. Identifying factors influencing oral health habits and dental care access among children and young people with Autism: Evidence synthesis and qualitative stakeholder research (2021 – present)
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 (2017 – 2020)
Clinical Leadership Fellow
Health Education England clinical leadership fellow (2021 to present)
Specialty trainee in dental public health. Educational Supervisor (2016 – 2021)
Grants & contracts
£100,000 (External). The Borrow Foundation. Dental care for looked after children and adolescents. Co-investigator (2022)
£25,000 (External). PEARN Charitable Trust. Recognising Pain in Nursing homes: A sign of dental disease. Co-investigator (2022)
£10,000 (Internal). Faculty Strategic Investment Fund. Recognising Pain in Nursing homes: A sign of dental disease. Co-investigator (2022)
£13,800 (External). Higher Education Innovation Fund. Engaging people experiencing homelessness with health and wellbeing opportunities: Knowledge generation, exchange and capacity building. Co-investigator (2022)
£10,137 (External). Higher Education Innovation Fund. Case finding hypertension and atrial fibrillation at the dentist for the Chief Dental Office and Livewell. Co-investigator (2022)
£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
£31,973 (External). Exeter City Council COMF Funds. Dental health care for those disproportionately affected by Covid-19. Principal Investigator (2021)
£235,127 (External). NHS England. Continuation funding for the Devon supervised tooth brushing scheme and evaluation. Principal Investigator (2019)
£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 are highlightedJournals
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.
Professional Advice to Trinity Dental Clinic and Cuttington University, Liberia
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)