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Meet Ingrid Perry, an inspiring practice manager at mydentist, and the brains behind the highly success Teeth Team initiative.

You may have heard of the Teeth Team, a nationally recognised charity focused on improving oral hygiene in kids. But, what you may not have known is that it’s the result of over 30 years of hard work, dedication and passion from our Bridlington practice manager, Ingrid Perry. Here she tells us her story of how it all happened …

About Teeth Team

Whilst visiting a local primary school is 2006, the head teacher expressed concerns about the number of children taking time off school because they were suffering from toothache. I told the Head teacher about a supervised tooth brushing programme developed in Scotland called Child Smile, which was set up to address the high dental decay rate among very young children in Scotland.

After lengthy discussions, it was agreed we would attempt to adapt the programme to accommodate the needs of the primary school in Hull.

The pilot was a huge success! The Head teacher was so delighted with the programme that she made a request to expand it to include the rest of the school. Head teachers from other primary schools in the locality soon heard about the programme and calls were coming in every day from Head teachers who expressed a desire for their school to also take part. Funding was an issue but there clearly was a need here, so I submitted a business case to Hull PCT who generously agreed to fund the programme for one year. Word got out and before anyone knew what was happening, primary schools from across the city were requesting to take part.

I witnessed first-hand the benefits the Teeth Team was having on these vulnerable and at risk children and I was determined I was not going to allow the programme to fold if it was in my power.  I managed to get myself invited to an LDC meeting where I planned to deliver a presentation to dental practice owners in the hope someone would come forward with financial support.

At the end of the presentation just one practice owner, Chris Groombridge from 543 Dental Centre came forward and offered to help. Over the following months I worked closely with the practice to develop a pilot study. I wanted to show how public and private businesses can work together to achieve the same goal: to improve the oral health of children in Hull.

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I felt it was important we had some baseline data about the health of the children's teeth at the start of the programme. In March 2011, we gave every child a dental examination, which was then repeated in September 2011. Early indications showed that the programme was having a positive effect on the oral health of the children attending the school. As a result of this encouraging start, the dental practice, in partnership with Henry Schein Medical and Dental Supplies, agreed to fund twelve primary schools for the next two years.

In February 2012, we launched 543junior.co.uk, An oral health education website aimed at children, teachers and parents. The site gives them information to help with lessons and how to help their children with their oral health. Thousands are using this fun and helpful free tool to benefit children's oral health.

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In June 2012 the programme was awarded the Patron's Prize for Innovation from the National Oral Health Promotion Group. Dr Tony Jenner OBE, former Deputy Chief Dental Officer for England and Wales, presented the award to Chris and myself. He said: "This is the best example of innovation I have seen in a long time. I am certain this programme will become a national initiative."

Since September 2012 the programme has grown significantly and we now currently support over 9,000 children in schools and nurseries across Hull and East Yorkshire. Further expansion is planned in Nottingham, Lincolnshire and Kirklees.

A lot has happened since then, including a relaunch and rebrand due to a change in ownership circumstances and as part of a naming competition, Teeth Team was born. Since then I have continued to work with Teeth Team by supporting it from behind the scenes. I have written every annual report since the conception of the programme, collated and analysed the data from the dental assessments and have put together and delivered presentations to a number of audiences.

In January 2014, the partners registered Teeth Team as a limited company and we gained charity status in June 2014. I am the company secretary and the Secretary of the Teeth Team Charity.

On 24th January 2014, at the Dental Hygiene and Therapy Awards in London, the programme was awarded the "Best Child Dental Health Initiative."

In December 2015, I delivered a presentation at the request of Sara Hurley CDO, to dental commissioners in London with a view to rolling out a national initiative, using Teeth Team as the foundations.

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What’s so unique about Teeth Team?

Teeth Team is facilitated by dental practices purely on a voluntary basis and relies on the donations of companies and local organisations. All of the practices involved give their time completely free of charge to the programme.

The programme consists of three elements: Daily supervised tooth brushing, annual dental assessments and bi-annual applications of fluoride varnish. All of these are undertaken within the school premises.

Teeth Team has demonstrated that it is possible to deliver and sustain an effective child oral health initiative, which has proven through cost effective analysis that by working together with local communities the oral health of at risk children can be significantly improved.

I am very proud of what I have achieved over the last ten years. I never considered back in 2006 that my small community based initiative would become a nationally recognised programme! Teeth Team currently supports over 9,000 children in Hull and has assisted other areas of the country to set up similar programmes in communities with high social need.

I am delighted to learn that mydentist has agreed to support the Teeth Team initiative in Nottingham. We are on target for the programme to be implemented in schools in the Nottingham area from September 2016. I hope that this may lead to even greater expansion and continued reduction in the inequalities in child dental health nationally.

My ultimate aim is to see Teeth Team programmes in every town and city in the UK. Whether this will happen only time will tell, but what I do know without a shadow of a doubt is we have made a huge difference to so many children’s lives.

Ingrid’s impressive career

I started my career in dentistry way back in 1985 as a Trainee Dental Surgery Assistant on a Youth Training Scheme (YTS) at a small dental practice in East Yorkshire. After a year of training I secured a position as a Dental Nurse at a city centre practice in Hull where I stayed for four years. I later secured a position as a dental nurse for the community dental service.

After being there for a couple of years, my manager called me to say a local school had made a request for someone to go into the school to talk to the children about looking after their teeth and that he had put me forward. Although I was nervous, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was clear the children enjoyed it too.  Afterwards, my manager told me: “This is what you should be doing, not dental nursing.” And so began a new chapter of my career!

I enrolled on the Royal Society of Health Certificate in Oral Health Education course which was facilitated by Nottingham University and spent the following eighteen months learning all about health education goals, social determinants of oral health and inequalities in oral health. For the following twenty years I was employed by the local health trust as an oral health educator and was responsible for delivering training to a wide variety of audiences.

Whilst I was employed by the local health trust I worked closely with three dental practices, helping them to build a children’s education website. In 2012 and 2014 I was awarded the runner up award for Hull Women in Business, Women of Achievement Award for the work I undertake with Teeth Team and in 2012 I was also a finalist in the Dentistry Awards for the Oral Health Promoter of the Year category.

In February 2016, I was delighted to be appointed practice manager at Bridlington. Being a PM is not something I would have considered in previous years as my heart always lay within dental public health, but having dipped my toe in the water, my only regret is I didn’t do it sooner!

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