One in six homeless people “pull their own teeth out” as they are refused access to dental services, MPs have been told.
Labour MP Stella Creasy told the Commons that many homeless people “hit a brick wall” when they try to access dental services, leading them to perform their own procedures.
“It’s little wonder that one study shows that 15% of homeless people have pulled their own teeth out because they can’t access services,” said the Walthamstow MP, going on to ask Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price to commit to changing the situation and making sure her promises aren’t “toothless”.
Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price agreed to meet Ms Creasy, adding: “I agree with her, notwithstanding what expectations we have of GPs and dentists in this area, it is quite clear that homeless people are not always getting access to the treatment that they should have.”
Following Ms Creasy’s comments Charlotte Waite, the British Dental Association’s (BDA) chair of of England Community Dental Services, said current policy on NHS dentistry was “failing vulnerable patients”.
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She said: “A civilised society does not leave homeless people so debilitated by oral disease they resort to pulling out their own teeth. There is no easy solution, but any progress is impossible without adequate investment in 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.”
A 2017 study by homelessness charity Groundswell approached over 260 homeless people in London through focus groups and one-to-one interviews to look at health inequalities and the impact on homeless people.
The research found 15% of homeless people had pulled out their own teeth, 70% reported having lost teeth since they had been homeless, 17% said they had lost teeth following acts of violence and 7% had no teeth at all.