England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, recently tweeted that “coastal communities have some of the most serious health problems in England but have often been overlooked”.
Recognising how the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly compounded issues for people already experiencing poor access to dental care, Smile Together teams have been generously and enthusiastically volunteering their time during lunchtimes and evenings, to make up oral health packs. The packs have been donated to local charities best positioned to reach families and individuals most in need.
Packs include toothbrushes for the whole family, toothpaste, two-minute toothbrushing timers, a brushing chart and a wealth of information on how to look after oral health and access urgent or emergency dental care in Cornwall.
So far CPR Foodbank in Camborne, The Trussell Trust, Food For Families, Cornwall YMCA, Trelya, DISC Newquay, We Are With You (formerly Addaction), St Petrocs, Early Help Hub Camborne, Helston and The Lizard Foodbank, and The Women’s Centre Cornwall have all received oral health packs for distribution amongst the vulnerable communities they work with. More than 1,200 packs have been donated to date and the response has been fantastic.
Helen Dobson from Trelya in Penzance is full of appreciation:
“Thank you to Smile Together for providing these wonderful oral health packs for the children, young people and families we work with. So many are reporting concerns with their oral health so these packs along with the information leaflets are incredibly helpful. With your support we are addressing some of the barriers to health care services for those we work with”.
Dental Nurse Sarah Andrews, who works in the Penzance practice based in the Lescudjack Centre and is an elected representative on the company’s Shareholder Impact Board, says:
“As an employee-owned social enterprise, Smile Together encourages us all to share ideas and suggestions for reaching further into our communities and we have a great track record in making things happen! It’s been so rewarding and inspiring getting to know these local organisations who, like us, are so passionate about making a difference to those in our local communities who most need our help. We’re all looking forward to donating even more packs and partnering with even more organisations on a sustainable long-term basis so that together we can help to improve oral health in our local Cornish communities. We are so grateful to Smile Together for enabling this project to happen.”
The inspiration for this oral health donations project came during the first lockdown in Spring 2020 when the Brighter Smiles oral health team had to temporarily pause their visits to schools, nurseries and family hubs across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, meaning that children and their families in areas of high decay across the county were unable to benefit from the programme’s toothbrushing clubs, fluoride varnishing programme and face-to-face oral health education sessions. Instead the team donated the 4,000 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste that they had in stock to local charities and community groups for onward distribution to the vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities they support.
This so inspired other colleagues that Smile Together put aside the funds to purchase thousands more oral health items for local teams to donate in their local communities. Pirate FM kindly put out a call for a 20ft storage container and Willbox responded, providing a secure storage solution which they even delivered to the social enterprise’s Harleigh Road Dental Centre in Bodmin. Dental suppliers have also been very generous in providing extra oral health items for inclusion in the packs. A special thanks goes to CTS Dental Supplies.
Smile Together teams feels strongly about our impact on the environment as they do about tackling oral health inequality in their local communities. Instead of using plastic bags for oral health packs, they have sourced compostable bags made from potato starch from Oversolve. These are now also used thousands of oral health family education packs that are given out to children in the schools, nurseries and family hubs each year.