Dental Public Health Engagement Project 2023

Published on 14 August 2023

4th-year Dental students tell of their experience working with Wellbeing Works.

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As part of this year’s Dental Public Health Engagement project, the 4th year dental students had the privilege of working with various organisations in Dundee, with the aim of supporting vulnerable communities. This is an overview of our group’s experience working with Wellbeing Works, a local organisation that provides one-to-one support and group activities to promote better mental health and well-being. 

Our time spent with Wellbeing Works was split over one week. On Monday, our group visited the organisation at its base in the Wellgate Centre. We were warmly welcomed by the manager, Dave, and his team, who gave us some insights into the services and activities that the organisation provided. We also developed our plan for the remainder of the week.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we immersed ourselves in the culture of Wellbeing Works, joining in on an array of the activities taking place that week. Some of us went gardening; some made Easter cards with the arts & crafts group; some went knitting; some even participated in chair yoga! During this time, we chatted with the service users, learning about their diverse backgrounds, their interests, their struggles, and how we as dental professionals could best serve them.

On collation of these valuable discussions, it was time for us to design an activity which addressed an identified dental need. We identified five dental needs and designed a series of interactive educational activities aimed at addressing those needs. The activities were delivered on Thursday and Friday and were as follows:

  • Activity 1: “Dental products can be expensive and I’m not sure what to buy”
    We showcased different dental products available on the market, discussed their differences, and advised what to look out for on a tube of toothpaste’s ingredients list – it should contain at least 1450ppm fluoride!
  • Activity 2: “I think I clean well, but I’m not really sure”
    We delivered a hands-on demonstration of how to effectively clean teeth and/or dentures.
  • Activity 3: “Hidden sugars?”
    Members were given a chance to rank a selection of food based on sugar content and see a visual representation of how much sugar they contained. This opened up discussions into the importance of being mindful when choosing what food to eat and the most appropriate time to eat that food. Limiting ‘sugar hits’ to 4 or fewer times per day gives your teeth the best chance of remaining strong.
  • Activity 4: “My teeth aren’t white, so they aren’t healthy. Right?”
    Service users were asked to categorise pictures of teeth into a ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ group. The catch was that all pictures showed healthy teeth. It was important to reassure people that many of the smiles seen on television are not natural!   
  • Activity 5: “I can't register with an NHS dentist!”
    We provided a list of NHS practices accepting patients in Tayside and instructions on how to register.

Whilst the feedback received from the service users was very positive, we were aware that not all service users were able to attend to benefit from the activities we had delivered. Therefore, we decided to develop some educational leaflets for toothbrushing and denture hygiene instructions. Each leaflet contained a QR code to a YouTube video, which illustrated the instructions. We also proposed an idea to produce a user-friendly digital application which could help service users monitor their daily sugar hits. Finally, we committed to sharing an updated monthly list of dental practices accepting NHS patients in Tayside. 

The project culminated in presenting our work to the year group, dental school staff and some of the other local organisations which our colleagues had worked with. After hearing about all the amazing work done by other groups, we were delighted to be awarded the Oral Health Foundation’s Dental Public Health shield for our work.

Spending a week with the members of Wellbeing Works was a truly rewarding experience. It was satisfying to see that the skills and knowledge we had gained during our degree were truly valuable beyond the scope of the dental clinic. Thanks to the kindness and openness of the members of Wellbeing Works, we feel proud to have had the opportunity to contribute to our local community. 

Group members: Yaa Agyei-Akwa, Rahmat Ali, Lizzie Beard, Rory Burns, Conor Davis, Harry Gordon, Charlie Graves, Diana Ispas, Wen Lin Lim, Anna Lygate, Nadia Mohammed, Lewis Morgan, Tobryn Prior, MJ Sharkey