There has been a lot of news recently about the increase in homelessness. Over the past couple of weeks, I have had the pleasure of being part of our clinics for the homeless on our mobile dental unit. Our clinics are really ‘hands-on’ with two or three people working with patients, breaking down barriers, building relationships and trust even before we take them onto the unit for treatment. The first thing that always hits me is that if you take time to listen to someone’s story you realise that it only takes one thing which can set you on a path to homelessness; there but for the grace of God. Whether it’s the lady who has been in an abusive relationship and had no choice but to leave the comfort of a home and live on the streets to get away. Or, the successful city worker who got into gambling and couldn’t control it leading to a life on the streets. Our charity partners offer programmes to help their clients get back on their feet and our clinics are just a part of this.
Our clinics are about breaking down the barriers that exist to dentistry. It’s about treating the person with respect, listening to their history, not judging and giving them a choice. It sounds simple, but society requires people to conform, and sometimes, when life is chaotic, you just don’t want to or can’t. Throw in dental anxieties, it is no wonder that we need to take a different approach to help the homeless and hard to reach to access care. A successful first visit might just be sitting in the dental chair and talking to us. If these barriers are being broken and they will come back for treatment and hopefully reaccess NHS dentistry in the longer term.
Some people comment negatively about Dentaid running these clinics and think that the NHS should be providing these. I would say that charities often complement the NHS, whether it is the Air Ambulance, cancer nurses, local hospices or even a hospital scanner appeal. What’s sad is that funding for these clinics is hard to obtain. We have some fabulous volunteers who help, but it does take money to be able to run these clinics. It was our last clinic at Albaré in Salisbury last week because the funding has ended. If you feel inclined to support us, to help the most vulnerable people in our society access care then do get in touch and donate on our website.Donate now