Homeless and vulnerable people could get free dental treatment in pilot scheme

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Free and emergency dental treatment for homeless and vulnerable people could be offered at food banks, day centres and hostels if funding is approved.

Members of Kirklees Council’s district committee for Dewsbury and Mirfield will next week decide whether to approve giving £7,060 towards the £12,260 pilot scheme.

Health charity Dentaid would carry out the ‘TEETH’ project by “bringing free, emergency dental treatment to places where homeless and vulnerable people actually go,” according to a report.

The idea comes from a similar scheme which began at the Real Junk Food Project in Dewsbury after it emerged that people attending were unable to eat the free meals it provides because of dental pain.

Councillors will meet at Northorpe Hall in Mirfield from 7.30pm next Thursday to discuss the funding request.

A report drafted for the meeting reads: “The project will reconnect people with local NHS dental provision – which many vulnerable people cannot access due to inability to register through lack of a home address or cost of travel to emergency clinics.

“Dentaid’s TEETH project will take a fully equipped mobile dental surgery, staffed by volunteer local dentists and dental nurses to offer emergency treatment and education about oral health, dental care, diet and reducing harmful behaviours such as smoking and people’s phobia about going to a dentist.”

The project would run two clinical outreach sessions per month for six months.

Around eight people would be treated at each session – reaching about 100 people over the period.

But a wider “oral health education programme” is set to take place at the same time, where it is hoped that each session will reach a further 10 people who will not require treatment at the time.

The total amount of people the project could reach would be around 200, the report says.

During the scheme at the Real Junk Food Project, more than 100 people were treated over nine months – 59 per cent of whom said they had been unable to register with an NHS dentist due to problems such as “capacity constraints” or the patient not having a fixed home.

Some had been waiting up to four years on an NHS dentist’s waiting list.

Forty nine per cent of those who attended were smokers, compared to just 19 per cent of adults across England.

The reports reads: “This is actually higher than figures for England in the 1950s and indicates a ‘group or section of society where improvements in health and life expectancy are not keeping pace with the rest of the population’”.

Children made up six per cent of attendees, but patients were most commonly 45 or over (30 per cent).

Around a quarter had mental health or addiction problems.

The project is intended as a blueprint for a continuing service after the finished pilot scheme.