News last week that homeless people have been pulling out their own teeth because of a lack of dental care, featured in the press.
The report by ABMU Community Health Council (CHC), interviewed 53 homeless and "vulnerably housed" people in Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend and found that few could access emergency dental treatment due to the cost of travelling and many had severe dental problems.
Last year, working with the London-based charity Groundswell, we highlighted their shocking research, showing 15% of homeless people had pulled their own teeth and we called for investment in community dental services.
The report flagged up why health inequalities are so prevalent in London, and the impact this has on people's lives. One of their peer researchers, a former homeless person himself, Rob, blogged for us to point out the barriers a lot of homeless people face when accessing dental care.
Fewer homeless people attend the dentist than the general population and some of the barriers to this are confusion over the entitlement to NHS treatment, as well as the social stigma, or previous bad experience of treatment that leads to attendance, only once the problem has reached crisis point and, may mean an A&E visit – something that could have been avoided.
And the reality is that a lot of high street dentists may not be able to treat these patients, a lack of time to treat them adequately and be able to explain treatments, or simply being able to process the paperwork, means that the community dental service is often probably the best solution for many of these patients to receive care.
But a recent report from Wallich, a charity for homeless people, shows a 38% rise in people living 'a street-based life style' across South Wales, and the Government's own rough sleeper stats are also showing an alarming rise.
But as we all know, in Wales both the GDS and CDS are already overstretched and we are getting no steer on how we might deal with this looming crisis of those who are struggling to access care in settings where it is most appropriate.
We will continue to lobby government to ask for the funding we need to help combat the oral health inequalities that exist across Wales.
Katrina Clarke, Chair
BDA Welsh Council
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