Mouth stories shared at public exhibition in Sheffield

Image of Professor Barry Gibson and Dr Lorna Warren at the Mouth Stories exhibitionA public exhibition of recorded stories that illustrated the significance of the mouth in older age proved to be a big success when it took place in Sheffield city centre last week.

People of all ages visited the two-day Mouth Stories exhibition in Sheffield’s Winter Gardens, over 19 and 20 September 2017, to share stories and experiences about their mouths and teeth, and the importance they have for us as individuals across our lives.

The exhibition took place as part of a GlaxoSmithKline-funded research project being conducted by Dr Lorna Warren, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy in the Department of Sociological Studies, along with Professor Barry Gibson from the University of Sheffield’s school of Clinical Dentistry and also colleagues Professor Peter Robinson and Professor Angus Walls, from the Universities of Bristol and Edinburgh respectively.

Members of the public were given the chance to record and put on display their own stories using a range of media, such as postcards, recordings, short videos, photographs and drawings.

Lorna explained: “There is a growing number of older people in the population, and everyone is keeping their own teeth for longer so dentistry is becoming more complex in later life. We’ve got a lot of research on oral health across all ages groups but it tends to be collected by surveys, and there’s been very little research that’s actually asked older people how they feel about their teeth and their mouths.

“What we were interested in is what’s influenced people’s oral health care, and what’s happened to their teeth. Everybody does mouth talk, so everyone has a story to tell about their mouths and teeth.

“Mouths are central to our identity. We have to have a nice looking mouth, we aim for sweet smelling breath and women put lipstick on, so we’re attending to the mouth all the time.

“Mouths can really give other people a sense of our age, so it’s about maintaining what’s appropriate for your age.”

Exhibit from the Mouth Stories exhibitionOn the first day of the exhibition, Lorna spoke to BBC Radio Sheffield about the project and the exhibition, and listeners called in to share their own mouth stories.

Lorna said: “The exhibition worked very well and was well attended. Even more people came to visit us after they had heard the discussion on BBC Radio Sheffield.

“We wanted to see if the concept of ‘mouth talk’ made sense, and it did. We captured a lot of stories from people across a variety of age ranges over the course of the two-day exhibition. We came to realise that everybody does mouth talk, and the stories that people share go across the life course.”

The team captured written stories from visitors, along with film and audio recordings of people sharing their mouth stories.
As a result of the exhibition, the project team will be compiling a short documentary film, and hope the findings can be used in teaching and for further research.

You can read more about the research project on page 16 of the new issue of Research Matters, the research review for the Department of Sociological Studies, here.

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