Big Issue vendors in Bournemouth have received free dental care on a mobile dental unit run by Dentaid. The dental surgery on wheels parked outside St Michael’s Church with Dentaid volunteers providing check-ups and dental treatments for seven of the town’s Big Issue sellers.
It is a sad fact that many people in the UK don’t receive dental care.
Around 70 per cent of street homeless and insecurely housed people suffer from dental problems and many are living with long term pain. Approximately 15% have tried to extract their own teeth.
“I was living in a tent and now I’m in hotel for a few weeks but I have to move on soon and when you have worries like that you don’t always think about your teeth,” said Louise, a Big Issue vendor in Bournemouth. “Without an address I wouldn’t know how to get a dentist anyway. But they’ve just given me a scale and polish which makes me feel more confident.”
Dentaid, based in Totton, runs mobile dental clinics at soup kitchens, homeless shelters and day centres across the UK. Volunteer dental professionals offer oral cancer screening, fillings, extractions and oral health advice.
After running a pilot project, which was funded by The Rotary Club of Romsey Test, Dentaid is now seeking funding so it can provide a regular outreach dental service for Bournemouth’s homeless population.Charities working in the town say that although other medical checks and services are available, many homeless people have no access to dental care.
“Some of our vendors feel anxious about going to the dentist or feel that they might not belong there,” said Big Issue team leader Kirsten Thomson. “But with the mobile unit coming here and parking near our office, we have been able to engage with our vendors and help them overcome any fears so they can take advantage of this opportunity.”
We all know how difficult having a toothache can be and for some vendors they may not have somewhere to go home to when dealing with these issues. Some may not even be able to afford painkillers.