Fund manager - Big Issue Invest
Smile Together provides referral and emergency dental care in the South West, covering Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
- 13 Number of sites Smile Together operates from across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
- 40000 Number of people Smile Together treats each year
- 4000 Number of special needs patients treated each year
Tooth decay is the main reason children aged 5-9 are admitted to hospital for general anaesthetic in England. On average, these children miss three school days per year due to dental pain and treatment, which not only restricts their educational attainment but also causes their parents to take time off work.
In deprived areas, tooth decay rates in children are double those in other areas. Just 29% of children eligible for free school meals have good overall health, compared to 40% of those not eligible. Children eligible for free school meals are also much less likely to attend a dental check-up.
Smile Together is one of the largest NHS referral and emergency dental care providers in the South West, covering Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. It provides urgent and emergency treatment for people without a dentist, along with out-of-hours surgeries, and a range of special treatments for adults and children. It also provides NHS care and competitively priced private dentistry in community settings.
Alongside dental care, it runs awareness campaigns (Brighter Smiles) for children in areas of high decay across Cornwall, and at harboursides across Devon and Cornwall for fisherman, who rarely get a chance to visit a dentist. Smile Together is an employee-owned community interest company – 76% of the workforce are shareholders, while 100% of profits are reinvested back into frontline services and the community.
Big Issue Invest made a £1 million investment in 2018 from the £23 million Social Enterprise Investment Fund II, which Big Society Capital invested £15 million into. This helped Smile Together buy and refurbish an old grammar school in Bodmin, transforming it into a dental centre specifically designed for patients with special needs, including mental health conditions and autism. The company generates revenue by providing NHS and private dental care, while its Brighter Smiles oral health programme gets funding from Cornwall Council.
Smile Together operates from 13 sites across Cornwall and the Isle of Scilly, treating over 40,000 people a year including more than 4,000 special needs patients. In 2019/20, 4,454 children benefited from the Brighter Smiles oral health programme, more than double the previous year. The £181,350 spent on toothbrushing clubs, fluoride varnishing and oral health education saved the NHS £748,045.
In 2019/20, 2,307 registered patients (NHS and private) received regular dental care, including 972 children who received free dental care. Mobile dental units visited schools in fishing communities, engaging with 452 pupils, while also treating 173 fishermen and their dependent family members at harboursides across Cornwall and Devon.