Changing Lives One Smile at a Time
By Ben Cornwell
Many homeless and vulnerable people face huge obstacles in accessing dental care. They often haven’t seen a dentist for years and are suffering from severe dental pain. Sadly, 70 per cent of homeless people have dental problems and 15 per cent have tried to extract their own teeth. To combat this, Hampshire-based charity Dentaid have been running a mobile clinic since 2016 to provide free monthly dental care for homeless people across the country – including those in St Leonards.
The mobile clinic, a regular visitor to the local area since December 2020, parks outside the Seaview project near St Leonards Warrior Square Station during the last week of each month. Recognising that vulnerable people might find it difficult to stick to plans, no appointments are necessary: people can just turn up. Even so, those who have managed to use the service regularly found it helped boost their self-esteem, especially where teeth which had been reduced to “brown rotten stumps” were extracted. It gave them that extra confidence to attend job interviews and try to turn their lives around.
The clinics can provide simple fillings, extractions, protective treatments and oral cancer screenings. Everyone is also given a toothbrush and toothpaste and advised on how to look after their teeth.
Dentist Felicity Cross, who has been a volunteer for the Dentaid mobile clinic in Hastings since December last year, thinks the charity is “brilliant” as there are a lot of different people volunteering their time and resources to help people who “really have no hope of being able to access dental care otherwise.”
“Dental pain is terrible and can make people’s lives miserable,” she says. “It’s important for everyone to have access to dental care… to the point where you don’t need any treatment or extractions. Most dental problems can be avoided with good prevention.”
Dentists don’t only offer advice: they also are constantly looking for signs of diseases such as mouth cancer. Unlike regular dental pain, it may not cause problems to the individual until it has advanced and become more serious. Projects like Dentaid mean that vulnerable and forgotten people can finally get the dental care they need and the attention they deserve.
• To find out more about Dentaid’s projects visit their website dentaid.org
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