The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and Dundee)

Transformi­ng lives for a century

Dundee Dental Hospital is 100 years old. Michael Alexander explores its high-achieving history – and finds out why the deans of nearly half of Britain and Ireland’s dental schools cut their teeth there


If there’s one way to sum up the difference Dundee Dental Hospital and School has made to society for the past 100 years then without a doubt it has been “transformi­ng lives”.

Dundee was the first to provide public service dentistry by a not-forprofit private enterprise when it was set up in 1914, decades before the founding of the NHS.

It was the first university-based dental school in Scotland from 1916.

It had the first dental qualificat­ions in Scotland with a certificat­e from the University of St Andrews in 1918.

And today its reputation still precedes it with Dundee dental alumni comprising heads of six of the 13 dental schools in Britain and Ireland.

But as the dental hospital brings to a close its centenary lecture series for alumni this week, the president of the Dundee and St Andrews Dental Alumnus Society, Professor Pete Mossey, believes there’s far more to the success story than simply a list of achievemen­ts.

The Dundee University dental graduate, who is Professor of Craniofaci­al Developmen­t and Associate Dean for Research, says the “special atmosphere” of Dundee Dental School makes it a conducive environmen­t for excellence.

“Having seen it and experience­d it as a student, and having been to many other dental schools both as part of my training and part of my experience, I do feel there’s a unique atmosphere at the University of Dundee in terms of the attitude of staff to the welfare of the students,” says Professor Mossey, 55, who enrolled at Dundee from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, in 1979.

“We are small enough to be able to get to know our students individual­ly and there is a special atmosphere at Dundee for nurturing careers.

“I think that has been reflected in the number of deanships of other dental schools who started their careers at Dundee.”

When Dundee Dental Hospital was opened by Sir James Baxter at No. 4 Park Place on February 23 1914 it quickly found itself in high demand due to the First World War Forces High Command insisting that no man leaving to fight for his country should be bothered by toothache.

Expansion quickly followed and by the end of hostilitie­s, the resulting dental hospital was regarded at the time as having the most modern facilities in the country and was very much admired.

Today, Dundee Dental Hospital has 50 full-time academic teaching staff and a similar number of dental nurses and technician­s.

It has helped Scotland become renowned internatio­nally for its programme of dental health at birth and has assisted in the introducti­on of the principle of “proportion­ate universali­sm”. This is where the resources go to the areas of greatest need, in turn helping raise the number of caries (decay)-free individual­s in Scotland by 20%.

The world renowned Hall Technique was also pioneered at Dundee, whereby instead of drilling cavities a cap is placed on the tooth which seals it off.

Yet, with a direct correlatio­n between poverty and dental health, significan­t inequality persists in Scottish dental health – and this is no less evident than in the City of Dundee itself where, according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivatio­n, 23% of under-fives are in poverty.

“We do have a reputation in Dundee for having relatively poor dental health for dental caries in five-year-olds and the determinan­ts do include the sweet tooth phenomenon,” says Professor Mossey. “We still have a very significan­t problem in Dundee and Scotland as a whole.

“The most common reason for providing general anaestheti­c in a child is for dental reasons.

“The dental profession therefore still has a big responsibi­lity for supporting these issues to reduce the instances of dental caries.

“But until such times as the inequaliti­es of poverty are dealt with, there will still be an unequal distributi­on of dental health.

“Even with this proportion­ate universali­sm, there will still be a tendency to higher incidents of dental problems and dental caries.

“And at the other end of the age spectrum, we’ve always had an unenviable reputation for the number of people who’ve lost all their teeth and don’t wear dentures. But again that is improving rapidly.”

Professor Mossey says the recent announceme­nt that there would be taxation on sugars is on the face of it a very sensible thing to do for obesity, diabetes and dental health.

The difficulti­es are that the greatest consumptio­n of sugar per head of population is in the deprived areas, and therefore often difficult to reach.

Professor Mossey, who has contribute­d a chapter on research to the book Dundee Dental Hospital and School: Transformi­ng Lives for 100 Years, now combines his role as a teacher of students, researcher and clinical orthodonti­st with a particular expertise in children born with craniofaci­al abnormalit­ies that affect the jaws and face.

It was Dundee’s reputation, and availabili­ty of a unique pre-dental course, that first attracted him from Northern Ireland – along with classmate and fellow graduate Michael Mannion who is now a well-establishe­d dentist in St Andrews.

And the attraction of the city shows no sign of abating with around 1,000 of Dundee University’s 18,000 students hailing from Northern Ireland today.

Professor Youngson’s Alumni Lecture takes place at the Dalhousie Building, Old Hawkhill, from 4pm on Friday June 10.

The Dental Hospital and School Centenary Civic Reception and Dinner takes place at Apex City Quay Hotel & Spa from 7pm on Saturday June 11.

 ??  ?? Left: Professor Pete Mossey shows an example of the models used by students at the school. Top: students in class. Below: Professor Mossey , stands at the entrance to the hospital and school which is celebratin­g its centenary.
Left: Professor Pete Mossey shows an example of the models used by students at the school. Top: students in class. Below: Professor Mossey , stands at the entrance to the hospital and school which is celebratin­g its centenary.
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