20 Oct 2023
Can oral health be something that is done for good? With Smile Together it can be. We sat down to find out more.
Tell us about you – what you do, who does it, where you do it and when you started:
Smile Together is a certified B Corporation with a mission and vision of tackling oral health inequality for healthier happier communities.
One of the South West’s largest NHS referral and emergency dental care providers operating from eight active practice locations, we proudly partner with NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Integrated Care Board to provide urgent and emergency dental treatments during and outside of working hours for people who don’t have their own dentist. We treat children and adults with a range of special care needs alongside the provision of oral surgery, children’s orthodontics and treatments under general anaesthetic in hospital, deliver routine NHS care and provide the option of private dentistry from practices based in the heart of their communities. We partner with others to run dedicated clinics for children in care and those experiencing homelessness, making every contact count, and our clinical teams frequently share their expertise with forums across the region to help drive the improvement of clinical services and commissioning for the benefit of patients.
An innovative mission-led organisation, we operate as an employee-owned social enterprise, reinvesting our profits into improving patient facilities, our community and environment. We have reinvested over £6 million since 2016.
We deliver tooth-brushing clubs, fluoride varnishing and oral health education to around 6,500 children each year in areas of high deprivation across Cornish communities through our Brighter Smiles programme. Our annual award-winning Smiles at Sea initiative visits harboursides across Cornwall and Devon in a mobile dental unit to provide dental care and oral health advice to fishermen who rarely get the chance to visit a dentist due to the demands of their work. Our generous teams frequently reach further into their local communities, partnering with foodbanks, homelessness and other charities to improve oral health outcomes, and our collective impact is impressive.
In May 2019, Smile Together invested to provide the community with a purpose-designed accessible dental centre in Bodmin, transforming dental provision in the county for patients who need care most. With facilities not previously available, including one of the region’s only bariatric chair and wheelchair tipper, this centre was chosen by NHS England as the county’s first Urgent Dental Care Hub in 2020, one of four that we operated alongside coordinating countywide Hub referrals during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Alongside investment in other practice locations, in February 2023 we opened a brand-new contemporary private dental practice at Keast Mews in Saltash, with a strong focus upon environmental sustainability.
A friendly values-based team, we’re committed to putting our patients and community first, whilst having a positive effect on the environment.
How did you identify the need, what’s the challenge you’re trying to solve and what’s unique about the way you do it?
The national challenges facing dentistry in the UK are well documented and demand for our emergency, referral and private dental care across Cornwall and Devon remains at an all time high. Together with our colleagues, commissioners and other partners, we navigate our way through the ever-changing dental landscape, continually finding ways to improve access to care and make every contact count whilst delivering our mission and vision of tackling oral health inequality for healthy happy communities.
Our employee-owners are incredibly committed and creative, keen to contribute their ideas for patient care, service improvement, social and environmental impact and business success, proud to work in our social enterprise environment and making a difference to those who need us most. This effective integrated and engaging approach enables us to deliver high levels of patient care and find new ways to improve oral health care across the county and beyond.
As an employee-owned social enterprise we have an influential Shareholder Impact Board of elected representatives, the chair of which is a director on the Smile Together Board. This ensures that our employee-owners voices are heard at the most strategic level. Our Create:Together patient representative forum helps us understand barriers and inequalities and co-design better pathways to care.
We were the first dental practice in the UK to achieve B Corporation certification and we’re proud to be part of this global movement of business as a force for good, collaborating to make the world a better place.
Why did you decide being a social enterprise is the way to go? What does it offer?
Social enterprises are mission-led businesses that reinvest or donate most of their profits for a social or environmental purpose. With Smile Together in business to deliver exceptional patient dental care whilst tackling oral health inequality it made perfect sense for us to achieve this as a social enterprise. We are proud to be part of such a strong, impactful and growing social enterprise community and thrilled to be shortlisted for two awards in the SEUK Awards 2023, and former winner in 2019. Further complementing this is our employee-ownership and B Corp status.
Do you have any success stories?
As an employee-owned social enterprise and certified B Corp, we have numerous success stories that we’re proud to share:
- Our Brighter Smiles oral health programme has seen us setting up toothbrushing clubs, applying fluoride varnish and delivering oral health education in primary schools, family hubs and nurseries across the county, particularly in areas of high tooth decay, making a difference to the oral health of around 6,500 children each year https://brightersmiles.org.uk/
- Our award-winning #SmilesatSeaUK initiative sees us taking our mobile dental unit to harboursides across Cornwall and Devon every year to help improve the oral health of fishermen and their families who so rarely get to see a dentist due to the demands of their work. Funded by Seafarers Hospital Society and Smile Together, and delivered in partnership with The Fishermen’s Mission as part of their national SeaFit service, including their partner network of healthcare providers, this sees us providing free check-ups, immediate dental treatment, oral cancer screening and oral health advice.
- We work with Cornwall Health for Homeless supporting pop-up clinics in locations across the county providing services ranging from dentistry, health checks and Flu/Covid vaccinations to help with drug and alcohol misuse and support for families in temporary accommodation. This sees us hosting pop-ups in our practices or providing care in partner location including from our mobile dental unit.
- Our teams make up oral health packs for donating to local charities best positioned to reach those families and individuals most in need across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. These packs include toothbrushes for the whole family, toothpaste, two-minute toothbrushing timers, a brushing chart and a wealth of information on how to look after your oral health and access urgent or emergency dental care in the county and to date we’ve donated over 7,500 packs.
As a social enterprise, every year we publish our Social and Environmental Impact Report to showcase and celebrate our achievements. This includes all of these success stories and much more – these can all be found on our website.
What are your goals?
To continue delivering our patient care alongside our vision and mission, as a successful social enterprise generating profit for reinvestment back into our patients, our people, communities and environment. This includes growing our private dentistry offering alongside our commissioned services to enhance patient choice and this saw us open a brand new fully-private contemporary dental practice in Saltash earlier this year.
And anything else you’d like to add?
At Smile Together we want to make a sustainable difference for our patients, our communities and ultimately our planet. Amongst other things this has seen us calculating our carbon footprint, moving to hybrid/electric fleet vehicles with EV charging points installed on site, procuring more sustainably, supporting Cornish habitats and paying attention to our waste and recycling.