Ireland to have its first community-based dental school

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Ireland to have its first community-based dental school

A new undergraduate BDS programme in Ireland will bring students into meaningful contact with NHS patients from the beginning of their coursework and embed community engagement in the curriculum. (Image: Day Of Victory Studio/Shutterstock)

Tue. 14 May 2024


DUBLIN, Ireland: Many individuals in Ireland who have difficulty in getting a National Health Service (NHS) dental appointment today will remember a time when their local dentist’s office was a cornerstone of the community. According to educators, a primary care-based approach to dental education could help to re-establish community-centred oral care by reducing access barriers and establishing greater connections between young dental professionals and local populations. As Ireland struggles to provide NHS appointments, news of the country’s first community-based undergraduate dental programme has provided hope for the service.

A long-term collaborative agreement between the University of Plymouth’s Peninsula Dental School and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) University of Medicine and Health Sciences laid the foundation for the new undergraduate BDS programme. According to an article in BDJ Student, the partnership will support RCSI in its adoption of a “comprehensive and bespoke curriculum [that] is designed to equip graduates to deliver excellence in dental care for patients in a primary care setting, improving their oral and general health near where they live”. The five-year RCSI programme is set to begin in September next year, and its first graduates are expected to be donning their academic regalia in summer 2030.

The Peninsula Dental School broke the mould of UK dental education when it was founded in 2006, bringing students into meaningful contact with NHS patients from the beginning of their coursework and embedding community engagement in the curriculum. The dental school was the first in the UK to incorporate side-by-side training of different dental professionals, mimicking a clinical setting. The school was shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Awards 2023 and won the Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community category for its delivery of primary care to thousands of children, asylum seekers and other vulnerable members of society.

Prof. Ewen McColl, head of the Peninsula Dental School, told BDJ Student: “Since the Peninsula Dental School was established, more than 600 graduates have taken their learning and applied it to their careers, making enormous differences to patients and dental care delivery where they work. The creation of Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise, which sees students treat NHS patients under supervision and address oral health inequalities, has seen over half a million treatments delivered to people who might not otherwise have been able to access them.”

“Access to dental care is a huge issue in the UK and Ireland, so to be able to work with and support RCSI to have an impact in their community is a huge next step, and we look forward to accompanying them on their journey,” Prof. McColl added.

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