An extension to cutting-edge facilities for training the next generation of dentists and dental therapists has been officially opened by the most senior member of the profession in England.

The new room in Peninsula Dental School’s Simulated Dental Learning Environment (SDLE) was unveiled by Chief Dental Officer Sara Hurley yesterday.

The new facilities take the total number of chairs in the SDLE to 50, a rise in capacity to deal with the increasing numbers of students wanting to study across the University’s BDS Dental Surgery and BSc (Hons) Dental Therapy and Hygiene courses.

Each station in the SDLE, in the University’s Portland Square building, is set up to mimic as closely as possible a real dental clinic, with chairs, lights and even patients in the shape of ‘phantom heads’. The heads allow students to practice a full repertoire of procedures in a safe environment before they move on to human patients, from diagnosis to giving injections and performing extractions.

Sara unveiled a plaque in the new space at a ceremony attended by University Vice-Chancellor Professor Judith Petts CBE, Dean of the Faculty of Health: Medicine, Dentistry and Human Sciences Professor Sube Bannerjee and Head of the Peninsula Dental School Professor Chris Tredwin.

Sara, who received an Honorary Doctorate from the University in 2017, had earlier spoken to undergraduate students just starting out on their journey in dentistry. She praised the investment in the SDLE, and the way students are prepared for life after University.

She said:

“With the extension of the SDLE suite, Plymouth again demonstrates why it is a fantastic place to learn. The technology melded with the quality of the multidisciplinary tutor team and outstanding mentorship, together with an understanding of the social context in which our future dental colleagues will be working, is a credit to the whole ethos of the University of Plymouth and Peninsula Dental School. The link to the community through the exemplar social enterprise, to be a force for good in Plymouth and Exeter and ignite the ambition to be a force for good in the wider world, starts here.”

Professor Chris Tredwin, Head of Peninsula Dental School said:

“It is our pleasure to welcome Sara to the University and Peninsula Dental School once again, to celebrate with us as we continue to provide bigger and better facilities for our growing number of students.

“The shortage of dentists at a local and national level has been widely reported and the University is investing to meet that need. This new extension is allowing us to take on more students, and adding flexibility in how we teach them.”

Associate Professor Cathy Coelho, Clinical Lead for the SDLE said:

“The extension to the SDLE suite provides a fantastic opportunity to train our increasing number of dental and dental therapy students side by side.

“This extra space also allows for smaller group teaching and assessments. It has been designed to offer the students and staff a superb teaching experience and I am delighted that it is being opened by the Chief Dental Officer.”

The University this week hosted a meeting of the Dental Schools Council, made up of 20 Heads of UK dental education institutions and which Sara also attended.

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