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Oral healthcare for homeless people

We campaign to ensure the dental healthcare needs of homeless people can be addressed by better service provision.

Improving service provision

We seek to ensure the dental healthcare needs of homeless people can be addressed by a mixture of mainstream and dedicated provision that:

  • acknowledges the special needs of homeless people 
  • is flexible (in terms of locations, opening hours, etc) 
  • has a combination of conventional location and outreach provision 
  • includes integrated, multidisciplinary service provision and coordinated case management to deal with the individual's needs 
  • draws on appropriate clinical expertise 
  • enables homeless people, wherever possible, to use mainstream dental services. 

Key points

 

  1. All sectors of dentistry have a part to play in providing services for homeless people - provided that training and funding issues are properly addressed.
  2. Where appropriate, local needs assessments should be carried out by NHS primary care organisations, in all the constituent countries of the UK, to gauge the extent of unmet need for dental care among homeless people in each area and facilitate the planning of provision. 
  3. Primary Care organisations in England should look realistically at the role to be played by General Dental Practitioners and the Community Dental Service in delivering dentistry to homeless people within the integrated model of primary care dental services
  4. The curricula for dentists, dental hygienists and dental therapists (and the occupational standards for dental nurses) should make explicit reference to gaining experience of working with socially excluded groups, including homeless people.
  5. More needs to be done to alert homeless people and the people working with them to dental health issues and to inform them of ways they can access dental healthcare services. 

Suggestions for further research

  • There is a need for more clinical research on the oral and dental health of homeless people - particularly groups other than rough-sleepers.
  • There is a need for research on homeless people's use of emergency services for dental conditions.
  • More systematic and quantitative research is needed into the appropriate clinical mode of treatment for homeless people in different settings (one-off care vs the drawing up of a treatment plan).
  • Occupational health issues, such as stress and burnout among clinicians and others working with homeless people (primarily those with challenging behaviour), need to be researched more.

Read our report on dental care for homeless people.

 

Read our blogs on our work on treating vulnerable patients.