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​Homeless falling back on 'DIY dentistry'

5 May 2017

The British Dental Association (BDA) has said government must invest in community dental services, as shocking new research reveals 15% of homeless people have pulled out their own teeth.

The study by homelessness charity Groundswell approached over 260 people homeless people in London through focus groups and one-to-one interviews to examine why health inequalities are so prevalent in this area, and the impact this is having on the lives of people experiencing homelessness.

The research found 70% reported having lost teeth since they had been homeless, with 35% having had teeth removed by a medical professional, and 17% losing teeth following acts of violence. 7% had no teeth at all.

The BDA, which has long advocated more effective care for the homeless, called on government and health commissioners to adequately resource NHS community dental services that care for vulnerable patient groups.

Michael Cranfield, the BDA's chair of England Community Dental Services said:

"This research is stark reminder of how current dental policy is failing vulnerable patients.

"A civilized society does not leave homeless people handicapped by oral disease or resorting to pulling out their own teeth. There is no easy solution, but any progress is impossible without adequately resourced mainstream and dedicated services.

"The failure to invest in community dentistry is hurting patients who can't always be cared for in traditional settings. It's hitting the homeless, the housebound, and patients with dementia, learning disabilities and phobias who are all entitled to effective care.

"This research should force government and health commissioners to reassess their priorities."

About the Healthy Mouths study

Healthy Mouths is a research study into the oral health of people experiencing homelessness which was conducted by Groundswell, and was led by peer researchers who have been homeless themselves. The study engaged 262 people who are currently homeless in London, utilising focus groups and one-to one interviews and also engaged over 50 professionals working in this area. The Healthy Mouths study reveals that homeless people suffer extremely poor oral health compared to the general population. The project was funded by the independent charitable foundation Trust for London.

About Groundswell

Groundswell is a charity which enables homeless and vulnerable people to take more control of their lives, have a greater influence on services and play a fuller role in the community. It delivers a range of innovative projects which put homeless people at the heart of solutions to homelessness. All their projects are led by and delivered by people who have been homeless themselves.