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Special Smiles Project

Special Smiles Dental Play ™ Project

Our Special Smiles Dental Health Project has now reached the end of funding and you can see a short video of our work during the last three years:

Special Smiles Dental Play™

First launched in May 2008 in NHS Tayside, the project is based on the need identified during our original Dental Playbox Project for a resource specifically for children with physical disability, sensory or learning impairment. This resource was developed during a one-year pilot project in six schools for children with severe and complex additional support needs and in consultation with a wide range of individuals and organisations. We also developed a portable Dental Playpack for use at home by parents. Feedback illustrated the positive impact our resources had in reducing anxiety in children and so improving the outcome when a child needs dental services.                  


Project Launch May 2008

Since its launch in 2008, Special Smiles has worked with schools across Scotland. Funded by the Third  Sector Early Intervention Fund, the Special Smiles Project worked with 16 special schools and units for children with additional and complex support needs in Falkirk, Stirling, Clackmannanshire, East Lothian, West Lothian and Edinburgh City. The project complemented the work of Childsmile programme in all schools.

The Playboxes contain books, videos, puppets, games and toys about teeth and dentists, safe dental equipment and mini-uniforms, worksheets and stickers, together with templates for social and multi-sensory stories which can be adapted to the individual needs of a child. Each school receives a Special Smiles Dental Playbox for use in the classroom and two portable Playpacks for home use. The project informs teaching staff and carers in the use of the resources in school, nursery and home settings.
Children with additional and complex support needs are at a higher risk of needing specialist dental services than the general population due to disability-related difficulties in maintaining oral health. They are also at the highest risk of having to undergo general anaesthesia for dental procedures. ‘Special Smiles’ aims to enhance the preventative care system for children and young people most in need by assisting schools, parents and carers to carry out their role in developing good dietary and oral health habits. We also hope the project will encourage dental services to become more patient and child friendly and enable sick children and young people with additional and complex support needs to experience a more positive contact with the dental health service.
Evaluation of Tayside Project 2009
Researchers from Dundee University carried out an evaluation of the project after a two year period in Tayside where 700 children had access to the Special Smiles resources. We were delighted that they found that the project achieved what it set out to do and that oral health understanding of staff, carers and children was improved and child dental anxiety reduced. The Evaluation Report further recommended that Special Smiles should be implemented in nursery and primary schools across Scotland.
The 2012 Evaluation Report of our work in Glasgow can be accessed here.
In the summer of 2015, Special Smiles was the recipient of two prestigious awards: the National Oral Health Promotion Group Patron Prize, awarded in Manchester on 12 June, and runner up for the Bright Smiles, Bright Future Award at the International Association of Paediatric Dentistry's 25th Congress in Glasgow on 1 July. It was one of four child oral health initiatives chosen from around the world to present for this award.