Homeless and vulnerable people in Chippenham have received free dental care after a mobile dental unit visited Unity House on Tuesday.
Volunteers from the dental charity Dentaid provided check-ups and pain-relieving treatments for 9 Alabaré residents and homeless people in the town. The project has been funded by Chippenham Town Council and was run by volunteers.
Many homeless people find it difficult to access NHS dental services and often suffer long term dental pain. Research published last year revealed that 70 per cent of homeless people had lost teeth since living on the street, 30 per cent were living with long-term dental pain and 15 per cent had attempted to remove their own teeth. Dental problems can affect self esteem and, if left untreated, lead to severe infections that can require hospital treatment.
The Dentaid volunteers offered each patient teeth and oral cancer screening, a scale and polish and, where necessary, gave fillings and extracted painful teeth. They also gave oral health advice and handed out toothbrushes and toothpaste.
“I’ve had toothache for 2 or 3 years and today I found out I’ve got bad gum disease,” said Unity House resident Aaron Palfrey. “The problem is it’s hard to get an NHS dentist around here and if you suffer with mental health problems and anxiety going somewhere new can be really difficult and stressful. Dentaid coming here has been amazing. They were so kind and helpful, my teeth don’t hurt as much and they have given me good advice.”
“I’ve not seen a dentist for 15 years because I couldn’t afford it when I was working and when I became homeless I had too many other things to worry about,” added Vicky Keeley. “Last year I ended up in hospital with an infected tooth but it was still giving me trouble. They’ve also given me a scale and polish which will make me feel more confident.”
Dentist Ben Dannatt and dental nurse Debby Russell from Ivydene Dental Practice in Amesbury volunteered on the mobile dental unit, which has also visited Alabaré’s supported living project in Salisbury. Dentaid’s mobile dental unit will return to Chippenham in March and the charity hopes to re-engage homeless people in the town with regular dental care.
“We know that when people are going through difficult times, dental check-ups aren’t a priority and many vulnerable people don’t access dental care until it’s having a serious impact on their lives,” said Dentaid’s CEO Andy Evans. “They can feel there are barriers preventing them from accessing regular treatment but by bringing our mobile dental unit to a venue like Unity House where they already feel safe and supported we can help them overcome any fears and take the first step to accessing life-changing dental care.”