Combating dental health inequalities in the North West

Mon, 26 Feb 2018 13:57:00 GMT

Everyone deserves access to dental treatment and care, but for many people in deprived areas accessing treatment isn’t easy. Dental health inequality is still high in the UK, and a third of five year olds in the North West suffer from tooth decay.

At the University of Manchester our dental students are fighting dental health inequalities in our local communities and abroad. All of our dental students provide essential treatment to low income and homeless patients as an integral part of their training. A record number of students are also choosing to volunteer with projects to improve dental health, both in Greater Manchester and overseas.

The Emergency Dental Clinic provides free of charge treatment to around 2,000 patients a year who cannot afford to go to the dentist. This treatment is provided by our fifth year dental students supervised by staff at the Dental Hospital.

Dr Raj Ariyaratnam, Senior Clinical Lecturer and Social Responsibility lead for the Division of Dentistry, says: “We are able to manage the pain of people who would not receive treatment otherwise. At the same time this is a great opportunity for the students to learn. Students are able to learn through helping people. They can get the satisfaction of treating someone’s real pain while getting direct service learning experience.”

Through volunteering with the charity initiative ‘Dental Playbox’ students are also helping to improve the dental health of children in Stockport and surrounding areas. They are teaching children and their parents about how to keep their mouths healthy through creative play using puppets, toys and costumes.

Our students have visited schools and held a stall at a charity open day for the Stockport community. Around 300 children visited the stall and over 200 bags of toothbrushes and toothpaste were given away.

A new project will start shortly to teach children who attend Tamil community language schools about oral health through play. This will then link to dental and general healthcare education for parents to reduce the impact of language barriers on healthcare access.