Homeless and vulnerable people from Southampton received free dental care when Dentaid’s mobile dental unit visited Above Bar Church. Every Thursday, the church holds its Big Breakfast providing free food and support for rough sleepers and vulnerable people in the city. Dentaid’s mobile unit was parked at the back of the church with a volunteer team from Titchfield Dental Practice on board ready to provide pain relieving dental treatments, screening and oral health advice.
A total of nine patients received 36 treatments during the clinic. They included extractions, fillings and scale and polish and every patient was given oral cancer screening and dental health advice.
Dentaid staff and a volunteer dental nurse were available in the church to offer toothbrushing instruction and to ensure that everyone had toothbrush and toothpaste. They also offered reassurance to nervous patients who were suffering from dental anxiety. No appointments were necessary and patients waited to be seen by the volunteer team. There was also an aftercare area where patients were supported after receiving treatment.
“I can’t register with a dentist because I haven’t got ID or an address. I have toothache, I am in pain but I don’t know when I last saw a dentist,” said patient Ben Young who required an extraction and a filling. “At the moment, I’m staying in a different church each night because they are open in Southampton this winter – it’ much better than my doorway. I think it’s good the dentist is here because it’s the only way I’ll get to see one.”
“I’ve not seen a dentist for about 20 years – I was a teenager then; I’ve never seen one in my adult life,” said another patient. “My life has been so chaotic but I’ve been in Southampton a year now. I know it’s important to go but not everyone gets the chance.”
The clinic was welcomed by staff and volunteers at Above Bar Church who encouraged Dentaid to return as soon as possible. The church welcomed around 100 people to its Big Breakfast and many stayed for a drop in session that included free hairdressing services, the chance to learn sewing skills to mend clothes, an area to collect shoes, social activities and companionship.
Dentaid is now seeking funding so it can offer a regular, sustainable mobile dental service for Southampton’s homeless population.