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Decayed and missing teeth a major problem

June 08 2011
Oral health issue among Scotland‘s homeless needs to be addressed

Planning for good oral health ought to be included in national health and homelessness policies in Scotland, according to a major report published in May.

The Smile4Life report is based on a survey of more than 850 homeless people across Scotland that found that many homeless people had bad oral health.

Professor Ruth Freeman, of the Dental Health Services Research Unit (DHSRU) at the University of Dundee, said: “Oral health is an issue for many homeless people and should be addressed through wider strategies and policies aimed at helping homeless populations.”

As part of the wider set of problems that homeless people face, difficulties eating, speaking and smiling comes down to a lack of appropriate, accessible oral healthcare. Many of the homeless people surveyed realised that they needed help with their teeth but were prevented from seeking treatment by other priorities.

The Smile4life project has been led by the DHSRU, working together with seven NHS boards across Scotland. The project team also received input from the Scottish Council for Single Homeless and Glasgow Homelessness Network.

Robert Aldridge, Chief Executive of Scottish Council for Single Homeless, said: “Many homeless people are coping with a combination of very urgent and immediate issues. So, health care and dental care slip down their list of priorities, only surfacing when the problem becomes acute and the need for attention is urgent.

“This research demonstrates how important it is for homeless people not only to have access to emergency dental services, but also to regular dental treatment.”

The Smile4life report was launched at an event at the University of Stirling on 19 May. The event was held within the Dementia Services Development Centre in the Iris Murdoch Building.