Homeless forced to pull out their own teeth

homelessAround 15% of homeless people have pulled out their own teeth after being refused access to dental treatment.

That’s according to research from Groundswell, which also found 70% had lost teeth since becoming homeless and almost a third (30%) are currently experiencing dental pain.

These statistics were brought up in Parliament recently after Labour’s Stella Creasy told Ministers that many homeless people had hit a ‘brick wall’ when trying to access dental treatment.

‘It’s little wonder that one study shows that 15 per cent of homeless people have pulled their own teeth out because they can’t access services,’ she said.

Failing vulnerable patients

Despite difficulties accessing treatment, participants valued their oral health and believed dentists were there to help.

However, only 23% had been to the dentist in the last six months, with 58% not clear on what their rights are to NHS dentistry.

‘Current policy on NHS dentistry is failing vulnerable patients,’ Charlotte Waite, chair of the BDA’s England Community Dental Services, said.

‘A civilised society does not leave homeless people so debilitated by oral disease they resort to pulling out their own teeth.

‘There is no easy solution, but any progress is impossible without adequate investment in mainstream and dedicated services.

‘The failure to invest in community dentistry is hurting patients who can’t always be cared for in traditional settings.

‘It’s hitting the homeless, the housebound, and patients with dementia, learning disabilities and phobias who are all entitled to effective care.’

Comments (3)

We regularly see homeless patients via a official hostel close to our practice (Edinburgh) but none directly from the streets so far. We would be prepared to see them but the system would want an address to process a claim and as they’re homeless therefore not on benefits they would be expected to pay. It really is wrong. They’re effectively private patients through no choice of there own.

This is an outragious situation and money needs to be invested to care for vulnar able patients. So much emphasis in dentistry is about making money ! Things have changed in the 40 years i’ve been working in a dental surgery

My understanding was that the community service was cut back decades ago because it was under-used. That was partly because of lack of awareness of the services available, and partly because of an unwillingness of parents to use the “school dentist”. This is not a new problem, and I remember 20 years ago trying to refer a bed-bound patient to the service unsuccessfully.
Also I think what is often glossed over is the fact that there are people whose behaviour makes them “very difficult to handle”.
1. Are there any volunteers to treat them at their own expense, or as the Americans put it – pro bono?
2.Which “civilised countries” do provide such a service?

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