Parents across Cornwall are being asked to take advantage of free NHS dental treatment for their children, at special paediatric clinics run by University of Plymouth Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at its Dental Education Facility (DEF) in Truro.
The clinics will run during term time from September.
The news of the paediatric clinics comes at a time when children’s dental health has been in the media: shocking figures from the NHS have revealed that having teeth pulled is the most common reason why children are admitted to hospital. Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that for the year beginning April 2013 more than 25,000 children aged between five and nine were admitted to hospital for dental treatments. Put into context, the next most frequent condition for the hospitalisation of children in this age group was tonsillitis at more than 11,000.
The Truro DEF is one of four across the South West, where dental students treat NHS patients under the supervision of qualified dental professionals. The School is the first of its kind in the UK to take this approach, and since 2008 around 15,000 people in Devon and Cornwall have enjoyed access to NHS dental treatment where they may not have before, thanks to the DEF programme.
It is important for the dental students to gain the widest range of clinical experience so that, when they qualify, they will enter the workplace with complete clinical skills. The DEF programme already provides treatments for children at its facilities in Plymouth and to a small extent in Truro, but the desire is to extend access to paediatric dental services in Cornwall.
Third year dental students are trained at the Truro DEF. The sort of treatments available include: dental check-ups, oral examination and diagnosis including X-rays; advice for preventing tooth decay and gum disease including tooth brushing and oral hygiene instruction, dietary advice and the application of sealants that protect the surfaces of teeth; assessment and treatment of gum disease; fillings and extractions.
Treatments take a little longer than they would if they were carried out at a general dental practice, because the students are learning as they are treating and their work is continually overseen and assessed by qualified dental professionals.
Treatment sessions for children are designed to be fun and to take away any anxiety a child might have about visiting the dentist. They have proved to be popular for both parents and their children, with one mum saying: “My boy was very worried about coming to the dentist, but we need not have worried. The student dentists were great with him. They talked to him and gave him all the support and time he needed to calm down and let them treat him. I think the treatment we received here today bodes well for the future.”
Zoe Harrington, Clinical Lead at the Truro DEF, said: “The DEF programme is a win-win for everyone: our students get to treat and interact with patients; and people across the region enjoy access to free NHS dental treatment. It’s important that our students get to see the widest range of patients as possible, which is why we are putting out the call in Cornwall for parents and their children to attend our paediatric sessions. We very much hope that our offer will be taken up across the county.”
She added: “At a time when there is national concern about our children’s oral health, we are delighted to be able to offer a service which will help to address the issue here in Cornwall.”
For further information, please ring on weekdays between 10.00–16.00 from Monday 18 August, on 01872 258100.