Helping refugees understand the importance of oral health

British Red Cross volunteers have received ‘Dental Champion’ training to help them promote good oral health among refugees.

With messages based around affordability and accessibility of dental care, the session was delivered at the charity’s Plymouth refugee support centre by BDS Dental Surgery students from Plymouth University Peninsula School of Dentistry.

The event saw students explain how good toothpaste need not cost the earth, as long as it contains fluoride, and that making time for teeth was an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

Volunteers were also given tips and goody bags to share with clients.

The session took place as part of the students’ Inter-Professional Engagement module – which the University runs on its BDS Dental Surgery and BSc Dental Therapy and Hygiene programmes in partnership with Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise (PDSE) and community engagement charity, Well Connected.

British Red Cross student intern Greta Cerniauskaite said after the training: “We mainly support asylum seekers and refugees, and we’re the first people that greet them as they come into Plymouth. It’s really important that we help them to integrate and access services.

“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 learnt myself – not only for personal use but also to give to clients. 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.”

Second-year dental student Ellis Pheasant, who helped deliver the session, 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.

“We’re really pleased that the volunteers were so engaged, and hope the session has given them the knowledge to offer oral health advice to refugees and asylum seekers who really need it.”

Rob Witton, Director of Social Engagement and Community-based Dentistry at PDSE said: “Helping to engage with groups who otherwise might not access oral health care 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.”

For more information and to view a video of the intervention, visit

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