Service with a SMILE
Armed with giant toothbrushes and enormous pink and white plaster casts of teeth, members of King’s College London SMILE Society are educating local children about why they need to keep their teeth clean – and why dentists are nothing to be afraid of.
A third of all children starting school each year have signs of tooth decay, and tooth extractions are the biggest reason children are admitted to hospital for general anaesthetics in the UK.
Simple measures can make a big difference – brushing twice a day, using a good fluoride toothpaste, spitting rather than rinsing, and cutting back on sugary drinks can all help reduce decay. These are the simple, achievable messages that the SMILE Society is taking into London’s schools.
Run by King’s dental students as a non-profit-making charitable organisation, the SMILE Society’s aim is to educate children about oral hygiene and healthy living and to encourage preventative dental care, so that as adults they can benefit from good oral health. The sessions also help diminish fear of the dentist – crucial during childhood and adolescence – while providing a comfortable environment in which to ask questions. Activities are carefully aligned with the oral health promotion strategies of local London boroughs, true to our belief that collaborative working is the best way to achieve long term impact.
Our dental students are part of King’s world leading Dental Institute, the largest dental training school in the UK. They benefit from the university’s partnerships with three prestigious London teaching hospitals – Guy’s, King’s College and St Thomas’ hospitals.
In turn, serving the local London communities through the SMILE Society helps our dental students gain the essential communication and patient management skills they will need as future clinicians. Volunteering in this way makes them aware of wider public health issues and enables them to engage with the people they are being trained to treat. They are bringing King’s commitment to service to life, with a smile.
Tripat Mahajan, 2016-17 Co-President of the SMILE Society, says: ‘Dentistry doesn’t have the best public perception, so we work with the local community and local schools with children to promote good oral health’. Sarita Kang, 2016-17 Co-President added: ‘A lot of children that we work with haven’t actually been to the dentist ever – and that’s quite shocking at the age of eight – so it’s really important that we go there, and make them comfortable. And it’s really good experience for us as dental students as well.’
Find out more about the Dental Institute here.