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Using Play to spread the message about oral health


NHS and Action for Sick Children Scotland team-up to deliver training

The Scottish Government’s Childsmile programme which is aimed at reducing inequalities in child oral health and access to oral care, has been delivered successfully since 2006. However, children with additional support needs and those with general anxiety can be hard to reach.

Now NHS Education for Scotland (NES) has teamed up with the charity ‘Action for Sick Children Scotland' (ASCS) to provide training for oral health staff in how to use play to help break down barriers with these children.

Through February and March, 120 Extended Duty Dental Nurses (EDDNs) and Dental Health Support Workers will be offered training, delivered by ASCS, related specifically to the use of the ‘Special Smiles Dental Playboxes’. These will be used to help engage these children with the practical elements of Childsmile and the oral health message through play. The Playbox developed by ASCS includes a toy inflatable dental chair, props to mimic a dental surgery, dressing up attire and many other dental themed resources. It helps the child become familiar with the dental setting and reduces anxiety.

The training looks at understanding how children use play as communication and how this knowledge can help oral health workers communicate with children in their care.

NES Dental Director David Felix said:

“It is important that all children, no matter their circumstances, have access to good oral health and care.

“Preventive treatment is particularly important for this group because interventive dental treatment is often very difficult or impossible to carry out in the usual way and can often lead to treatment having to be carried out under general anaesthesia with the associated delay, risk and costs.

“That is why we are pleased to join up with ASCS to offer this training, which will give more staff the tools and insight they need to help get the message across.”

Liz May, ASCS National Co-ordinator said:

“In recent years, ASCS’s ‘Special Smiles’ project has worked in schools to enhance the preventative care system for children with additional support needs by helping teachers, parents and carers to carry out their role in developing good dietary and oral health habits Our play resources have been able to help children cope with dental examinations and treatment for the first time ever.

“We have also encouraged dental services to become more patient and child-friendly to enable children and young people with additional and complex support needs to experience a more positive contact with the dental health service.”


Reference: PR2017-002

Further Information From
Mary-Jo O'Brien, Corporate Communications Manager, tel. 0131 656 3213.

Note to Editors

  1. NHS Education for Scotland (NES) is a national special health board working to provide education, training and workforce development for those who work in and with NHSScotland:
  2. Further information on Action for Sick Children Scotland is available at:
  3. Childsmile is a well-established national oral health initiative from Scottish Government which is aimed at reducing the inequalities in oral health and access to oral care for children. NES provides support for this programme by providing training and educational support to the Extended Duty Dental Nurses (EDDN) and Dental Health Support Workers (DHSW) who deliver the different elements of Childsmile in nurseries, schools and general dental practice. This includes application of a fluoride varnish twice yearly, toothbrushing and oral health education which are all proven methods of preventing dental disease. In addition, DHSWs also have a role in the community to liaise with dental practitioners and support families who have difficulties with accessing oral care for their children.