Students at the Plymouth University Peninsula School of Dentistry recently trained volunteers with the British Red Cross to promote good oral health among refugees. During a session at the Red Cross’ Plymouth refugee support center, the students emphasized the affordability and accessibility of dental care, for example, explaining that good toothpaste only needs to include fluoride and that making time for teeth is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
“We mainly support asylum seekers and refugees, and we’re the first people that greet them as they come into Plymouth,” said British Red Cross student intern Greta Cerniauskaite. “It’s really important that we help them to integrate and access services.”
The session took place as part of the students’ Inter-Professional Engagement module, which the university runs as part of its BDS Dental Surgery and BSc Dental Therapy and Hygiene programs in partnership with Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise (PDSE) and community engagement charity Well Connected. The British Red Cross volunteers at the session also received tips and goody bags to share with their clients.
“The dental champion training has been fantastic. Very informative, very clear, and there are some good guidelines to follow. There were also things that I learned myself, not only for personal use but also to give to clients,” said Cerniauskaite.
“The majority of our clients have not seen a dentist for years, and maybe the countries that they’ve been living in haven’t had any dental provision or support, so it will be good to give them little tips to help them improve their dental hygiene,” she said.
“The aims of the session were to increase volunteers’ confidence in delivering advice on diet, products to use, how to use them, and how to access dental services,” said second year dental student Ellis Pheasant, who helped deliver the session. “We’re really pleased that the volunteers were so engaged and hope the session has given them the knowledge to offer health advice to refugees and asylum seekers who really need it.
“Helping to engage with groups who otherwise might not access oral healthcare is a really important part of what we do. As well as reaching those communities themselves, it’s important that we educate those who work closely with them to ensure that message is sustainable as possible,” said Rob Witton, director of social engagement and community-based dentistry at PDSE.
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