An enthusiastic team of product testers at Manchester People First
I'm not usually the one that gets involved in National Smile Month too much, it's often seemed focused on children, and I treat adults with complex disabilities and medical conditions as a special care dentist. But this year, I did take part, and it all came about by a seemingly random collision of unconnected factors!
I work in Manchester, and we have a new combined health and social care system, Manchester Local Care Organisation (MCLO). With devolved powers, a Mayor and so on, our city can create different solutions to getting health and social services to work together.
It's an innovative combination of health services, GPs, city council social services, and our special care dental service has become part of it. Being a new, forward thinking, radical organisation, they love to make use social media.
The MLCO management team asked our ops manager, Sandra, '…could the dental team do something for National Smile Month that could be promoted on social media?' and an idea popped into my head.
I'd done some work with a local Learning Disability advocacy group, Manchester People First, about the fines many disabled people are being issued by the BSA. They helped us raise awareness of this scandal and how it is disproportionately affecting disabled patients.
They are very good at using social media too and had been posting about it. We also see some of the oral health company representatives regularly, who are generous in giving us samples. We wondered if we could get some products donated, and have our friends Manchester People First test them and write about it on Twitter, using some easy-read information we'd had printed?
My enthusiastic colleagues loved the idea and our plan took off. Dental nurses Tannya and Jo contacted the oral health company reps, using our therapist Kay's contact book and receptionist Tracey fielded calls and emails about what we were trying to do.
Before long with generous donations we had toothbrushes, electric, manual, special grips, an irrigator, toothpaste, sugar-free gum and some other specialist stuff.
At Manchester People First, project manager Andy, and the group embraced the idea and they were soon having ballots for who got to test which product. All very democratic!
However, in the first week of National Smile Month, some serious events got in the way. Not only were the learning disability mortality report and reports of autistic people held in inappropriate mental health facilities published but the Panorama documentary on abuse of vulnerable adults was aired.
This was upsetting to the group, and as advocates for the rights of people with a learning disability, they set about sharing their comments on these issues on social media. National Smile Month was understandably put on the back burner.
But, after the dust had settled a bit, the Tweets from @firstmcr did start coming. Shirley was testing some toothpaste, Barry was pleased to be trying out the water flosser and had some sugar free gum and the two Joanne's had an electric toothbrush each.
They were writing feedback on what they'd used in their own words; instructions were a bit small to read, and some packaging a bit fiddly to open. Manufacturers don't really consider how products are to use for people with disabilities.
But overall, the group enjoyed taking part and doing something different to the discussing the ongoing issues that concern people with a learning disability most; housing, discrimination, employment.
If you want to find out more about what the group does, follow @firstmcr on Twitter, or on their Facebook page.
Simon Tiller, Special Care Dentist
Working for you
We campaign on a range of issues affecting dentists and
dentistry today. We make sure that
dentists' views are represented when it comes to health policy being developed
by government and other key organisations. With each new member, our voice and our influence grows. Add your voice, join today.