​The inspirational winner of BSPD’s 2020 Outstanding Innovation Award is Community Dental Officer Linzi Maybin for her Happy Teeth project.

Based in Yorkshire and Humber, Happy Teeth is geared to building a brighter future for children with special educational needs (SEN) or children affected by the refugee crisis.

Foundation dentists (new graduates in dentistry) are trained to go out with Linzi to special schools to teach and screen children’s teeth. Teachers and assistants in these settings are also trained in oral health so that good practice can be maintained after the visit.

Dr Maybin said that as a student, she only had one thirty minute lecture on the management of patients with special educational needs. After graduating, she got involved with a special school in Halifax and found the experience so rewarding she developed her Happy Teeth project. “I just feel passionate about caring for patients who can’t always communicate that they have a dental problem.”

The refugee centre that Dr Maybin has been working with is Bevan Healthcare, a social enterprise in Bradford while the special schools are mainly in the Leeds area. A Leeds Dental School graduate in 2014, she is currently contributing to webinars for Leeds dental students.

Health Education England had been very forward-looking, she said, and agreed to assign foundation dentists to undertake outreach work alongside her. One of the most rewarding impacts, she said, had been to witness the impact on young dentists. Working with patients who may never have seen a dentist before, they appreciate the difference dentistry can make to people who have nowhere else to turn.

Sarah McKaig, President of BSPD commented: “Linzi has identified a problem and without support has created a solution. This shows compassion and drive and I am impressed by the commitment she has shown. Not only is she helping children, she is providing valuable experience to young dentists who work with her. She is inspirational.”

There was outstanding competition too this year. The judges, the BSPD executive committee, awarded “Highly Commended” to two entries. A scheme called Targeted OH interventions by undergraduates, Service Learning and Civic Engagement was entered by Paula Waterhouse, Clinical Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in the School of Dental Sciences at Newcastle University and Newcastle Dental Hospital.

An innovative outreach programme involving dental undergraduates, this is another excellent example of partnership working. In this instance, clinical academics, a senior oral health promoter in Community Services, diverse community groups and the City Council are all involved in enabling oral health education in schools, special schools and nurseries.

Dr Waterhouse said the programme began in 2013 and at the time it was a venture into the unknown: “One of my concerns was that the dental students, in their first clinical year, would struggle communicating with and engaging such diverse groups. Our students grasp these challenges and become great ambassadors for the school; so thoroughly prepared by Debora, the senior oral health promoter. It’s lovely as one of their teachers to know they are doing such a good job.”

The scheme has been praised by Newcastle University’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education whose words demonstrate how innovative the scheme is: The collaborative work undertaken by the School … & its partners has made significant societal impact by providing the first ever community-based learning for dental sciences.’

Also Highly Commended is an impressive resource created in Wales - The Best Practice guide: Providing excellence in the care of children affected by decay. This initiative was entered by Sara Hughes, a specialist trainee in paediatric dentistry at Cardiff Dental School, who was concerned that the number of extractions in Welsh children is continuing to rise, from just over 6000 in 2017/18 to over 6500 in 2018/19.

With the support of her consultant, Mechelle Collard and the Chief Dental Officer for Wales, Colette Bridgeman, Sara secured funding for the design and distribution of a user-friendly guide to managing children suffering from decay aimed at the busy general dental practitioner.

Based on the latest evidence, the guide is already in use and enjoying excellent feedback. The results of an online survey indicates that 75% of primary care practitioners feel that the guide will improve patient care and 40% report that they use the guide more than once a week. Fifty-six percent of undergraduates found the guide ‘extremely useful’ and use it mainly for clinical session preparation and revision purposes.

Another achievement of the guide is the improved communication between paediatric dental teams in the hospital and dental teams working in more rural areas of Wales, where specialist services are not easily accessible.

The remaining two entries also showcased innovation and a commitment to improve children’s oral health. They are:

George and the Happy Tooth , a book aimed at pre-school and primary school age children written by Katie Dullaghan, an oral health educator in Liverpool. She was already delivering oral health training in schools when she had the idea to create a book which her son Georgie would enjoy reading with her. In addition to being an inspiring story, the book is a guide for teachers and parents to help promote preventative messages and improve oral health. It is now accompanied by a reward chart and stickers, as well as posters and activities for children in dental practices as well as at school.

Tooth FaiRead, a blog designed for dentists, providing accessible information and tips for the management of paediatric patients entered by Dayna Rosenthal and Nikita Visaria-Shah, both Community Dental Officers. Using only social media and word of mouth, the blog has achieved over 7000 views. By providing free, easily accessible and evidenced-based information in an easily digestible format, they aim to empower dental professionals to deliver good standard paediatric dentistry within a primary care setting so that children can receive the treatment that they need. toothfairead.wordpress.com

Sarah McKaig added: “It’s been a bumper year for our Outstanding Innovation Award. Every one of these entries was a possible winner - which made the judges job extremely difficult. We are very proud to have members who are so outstandingly dedicated, in meeting the aim of our Society, to improve the oral health of children.”