A Dundee University dental professor has said improving oral health habits can help rehabilitate prisoners.

Professor Ruth Freeman, from the university’s School of Dentistry, says introducing inmates to better lifestyle choices can produce changes in offenders’ health-related behaviours.

‘Oral health is an integral part of a person’s physical health and psycho-social wellbeing, and this is also true for people in prison,’ she commented.

‘The pain of toothache can influence a person’s mood and we know that there is a link in the homeless population between having decayed and missing teeth and depression.

‘There’s no reason to think there might not be a similar link to those people in prison.’

“Oral health can significantly impact on the quality of life of those in prison, from not being able to eat properly or having painful teeth, to more social aspects, with many feeling self-conscious or embarrassed about their appearance.”

The professor will be discussing her involvement in the People in Prison, Health Coaching for Scotland programme, a university-led peer health coaching initiative that has been rolled out at HMP Perth.

The project trains people in prison to become peer health coaches. Participants receive qualifications following 92 hours of training.

Professor Freeman will be at the next Cafe Science Dundee at Avery and Co on South Tay Street, next Monday at 7pm.

For more information on the Scottish Oral Health Improvement Prison Programme: SOHIPP click here.