A pioneering service offering a full range of primary dental care to homeless Glaswegians has been officially launched today.
Two dentists will provide a dedicated dental "practice" for the city's homeless population, catering to their oral health needs. Operating from a number of venues across the city, the service represents a significant expansion of the care previously available through the City Mission and occasional visits to hostels.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's Director of Community Dental Health, Ray McAndrew, believes the impact of the new service will be far-reaching: "The Homeless Dentistry Service is a very important addition to the care we can offer and we're very proud to be leading the way in this. Our patients will be the homeless men, women and children of Glasgow and we estimate we'll see around 4,000 people each year.
"Homeless people also tend to have a high proportion of risk factors for oral cancer. By being able to treat more minor problems and provide oral cancer screening in our new Homeless Dentistry service, we hope we can also help prevent more serious diseases."
Research has shown that homeless people have difficulty in accessing dental care through the general dental service. A study carried out by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has also found high levels of decay exist among homeless people, much of it untreated, and around 30% of people no longer have their own teeth.
Alice Docherty from the Glasgow Homeless Partnership – a joint partnership between NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Glasgow City Council – said: "When you don't have a home of your own, your very existence can sometimes be a struggle and looking after your teeth can often be a low priority. This can lead to other health problems and it becomes a vicious circle.
"Improving someone's smile can improve that person's job prospects, their chances of finding decent housing and of building relationships. By treating oral decay, it's no exaggeration to say that countless other areas of people's lives will be likely to improve."
37-year-old Teresa has been already been treated by the dentists at the Homeless Dentistry Service and believes the service has made an enormous difference: "I've been 100% happy with the treatment I've had at the Homeless Dentistry Service. It's not just what they do, the staff they have working there are brilliant. It's the best treatment I've ever had".
As well as offering primary dental care, the new service will undertake oral cancer screening and other long-term initiatives to promote better oral health among the homeless population within NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. The service comprises two dentists, three dental nurses, a hygienist and support staff.