Cancer patients’ clinics

Macmillan Cancer Support has renewed its partnership with dental charity Dentaid to help fund a mobile unit at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS).
Dentaid’s mobile unit attends the hospital twice a month with its group of volunteer dentists and dental nurses to offer treatment to head and neck cancer patients. Since the partnership started in July 2021 the unit has treated over a hundred head and neck cancer patients at UHS who are either about to commence or are undergoing treatment.

The service also supports patients who have finished their cancer treatment -maybe a few years ago – but are now suffering ongoing damage to their teeth. Over 300 different treatments have taken place including: extractions of painful teeth, fillings, oral health instruction, dentures to replace teeth lost during cancer treatment and preventative and protective treatments including flourish varnish. One of the partnership’s patient’s this year was Pam Myatt aged 81. In 2016 she was diagnosed with throat cancer which spread to her tonsils. Her left tonsil was removed, and she started radiotherapy and chemotherapy in 2017.

Although she has now finished her cancer treatment, it has caused lasting damage to her teeth which are now at much greater risk of decay and damage. Pam told us: “What I didn’t know before, is that after radiotherapy the teeth are very susceptible to damage and decay, although the effect might not be seen for several years. I started to get problems with my teeth but there aren’t any NHS dentists taking new patients. One of my teeth has caused me pain but mostly it’s the loss of confidence. I noticed my teeth started to erode and decay and turned opaque white. It was devastating. You have a feeling of isolation and not knowing where to turn. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to find the Dentaid unit at UHS and it is such a nice team. I’ve had full x-rays and several fillings.

Just today, I’ve had three fillings which would have cost me about £450 otherwise. I was feeling pretty desperate before I heard about Dentaid’s partnership with Macmillan and UHS but I’m incredibly pleased and grateful to be here receiving treatment.”

Andy Evans Dentaid’s CEO said, about the extension of the funding, “We are delighted to continue our partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support and University Hospital Southampton. Over the last year Dentaid volunteers have been able to help patients who’ve needed urgent dental care prior to starting cancer treatment, those who’ve developed dental problems while they’ve been undergoing treatment or afterwards as radiotherapy can have long lasting effects on the mouth.

This is an innovative project that involves taking our mobile dental service to the hospital and helping those struggling to access dental care who urgently need treatment to restore their confidence and improve their quality of life.” Dentaid volunteer dentists and dental nurses provide full x-rays and screenings, fillings, dentures, extractions if necessary, dental and oral health advice, scale and polish and other treatments. All clinics take place on the mobile dental unit which parks at the hospital and the project is also supported by Southampton Hospitals Charity.

Tracy Street, Macmillan Engagement lead said: “ We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Dentaid and UHS to provide essential dental care for head and neck cancer patients. There has proved a real need for this service with a gap in provision and thanks to Dentaid’s volunteers and our amazing Macmillan supporters we can continue to fund and offer patients the dental care they need before, during and after their cancer treatment.”