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Issue 466, 8 May 2001

Eat, smile and also brush your teeth

Brushing teeth can improve quality of life. That is the message of the Eat and Smile project, a University initiative which is working very closely and successfully with the community to promote health. The project aims to encourage the older members of the Pakistani community in Leeds to have regular dental checkups and increase their awareness of oral health.

Studies have shown that there is a lower take up of dental services among UK Muslim South Asians, as compared to the UK population as a whole. The older members of the community also show increased risk of oral cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and this is often aggravated by the use of tobacco, either smoked or chewed. Gum disease, also associated with smoking and chewing tobacco, has been shown to be more prevalent amongst South Asians, and this condition makes it hard to control diabetes.

Leeds Dental Institute is tackling these problems through the Eat and Smile project, which brings together community representatives, dentists, health promotion specialists, pharmacists and research scientists in an attempt to understand the issues through the eyes of the target community.

The project has studied attitudes to oral health within the South Asian community, looking at both current practices and reasons why access to dental services might be difficult. The aim is to generate ideas of good practice, which may also be applicable on a national basis with other minority communities.

The findings so far have been incorporated into an oral health promotion video in Punjabi, which is to be launched at two public events in Beeston and at the Town Hall. A training pack for community educators is also under development.

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