University of Sheffield Professor receives MBE for services to children’s dentistry

16th October 2020

University of Sheffield Professor of Paediatric Dentistry, Helen Rodd, has been announced as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in Her Majesty The Queen’s belated Birthday Honours.

The annual Birthday Honours recognises individuals in our society who have committed themselves to serving and helping Britain. They often honour individual achievements such as making a difference to a community or field of work, creating change and improving lives.

As a Professor and Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry at the University of Sheffield’s School of Clinical Dentistry, Professor Rodd works for the NHS at the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital and Sheffield Children’s Hospital, providing treatment for children with a variety of medical, dental and social needs. She also educates and enthuses dental learners of all levels whilst undertaking a programme of child-centred oral health research.

Carrying out research with children, Professor Rodd says, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of her career: “Over the past 15 years I've been part of a fantastic research team led by Professor Zoe Marshman that has encouraged and supported children to be a central part of our research, so we can better understand their perspectives.

“These insights have helped us develop new approaches to help those who are anxious about visiting a dentist, those in pain, those with developmental enamel defects, or those needing significant interventions such as a general anaesthetic or management of traumatic dental injuries.

“Changing how we treat and conduct oral health research in relation to children, and centering their needs through a combination of clinical and social science research, has been extremely rewarding and is helping us improve, and make a difference to young people’s experience of dentistry and their oral-related quality of life.”

A notable piece of research was the creation of ‘Your teeth, you are in control’, resource packs for children and young people, their parents and dental professionals.

This intervention, based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy, is designed to help young patients with dental anxiety to access and accept dental treatment by understanding their worries about going to the dentist. It aims to help them to be active participants in their care, guiding communication with their dental provider and helping parents and clinicians ease the anxiety of those scared of visiting the dentist.

Parents of a 13-year-old girl said of the clinic's child-centered approach to care that: ‘You [Professor Rodd] were the first person who spoke directly to her rather than me and asked her what she wanted the outcome to be. You influenced a young mind with your kind approach and professionalism and have changed a life.’

Free to access online, the resources have already been translated into several languages and culturally adapted for use worldwide. The next step is to conduct trials in general dental practice to ensure as much of the dental community as possible has access to this simple but effective approach for children with dental anxiety.

Professor Rodd says helping undergraduate and postgraduate students at the School of Clinical Dentistry is one of the really rewarding parts of her career: “To help trainees and students, supporting them to secure research grants, pass their exams and publish their research is such a privilege. I really want to support the next generation of dental practitioners and academics so they can make a difference in improving children’s oral health.”

Her nomination to the Birthday Honours came from her peers at the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD), for which she has previously sat as President and Chair of the Commissioning Group. The BSPD felt that during her impressive career, Professor Rodd has created valuable improvements in the care of children, has been a leader in the NHS and that her research has had a great impact within the field of paediatric dentistry.

Professor Rodd’s reputation extends around the globe, and as a leader in her field she was invited to be the Scientific Chair for the International Association of Paediatric Dentistry’s Annual Conference in Glasgow in 2015. Calling this a ‘career highlight’, Professor Rodd used the opportunity to shape the theme of the conference around the ‘Voice of the Child’, inviting 2,000 delegates to discuss the latest research and best practice in paediatric dentistry.

She said: “It's such a wonderful feeling to know your peers appreciate your achievements. However, I feel I am just doing my job, and the University of Sheffield has been hugely supportive and instrumental in what I do, so it's an amazing privilege to be receiving this honour.”

Professor Christopher Newman, Interim Vice-President and Head of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health at the University of Sheffield, said: “Myself and all my colleagues in the faculty offer our warmest congratulations to Helen on the award of an MBE in recognition of services to young people and NHS leadership. Amongst a long list of her achievements, Helen has made major contributions to the management of dental anomalies and developing self-help guides for dental anxiety in children. She was also one of the key individuals responsible for devising the NHS commissioning guide for Paediatric Dentistry.

“All this whilst also making a huge contribution to the education of generations of undergraduate and postgraduate dental students here in Sheffield. Congratulations Helen, so well deserved!”

John Somers, Chief Executive at Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We are delighted to see Helen being given national recognition for the work she does to help children and young people. Her research is leading directly to better care for children in Sheffield and far beyond, and we're so proud to see her honoured in this way."

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