A better Medway

Homelessness and oral health

People who are homeless face lots of challenges in accessing dental care and maintaining good oral hygiene.

This can have a significant impact on their oral health and lead to dental problems such as cavities, gum disease and tooth loss.

Dental treatment for homeless people

Anyone can access NHS dental care even if they have no fixed address.

Dentists do not need to get proof of identity, proof of address or proof of immigration status.

Dental practices cannot turn down an applicant for NHS treatment on the grounds of dental condition or any protected characteristics.

If a homeless person can show they receive Universal Credit, they are eligible for free treatment and subscriptions.

When treating a homeless person, dentists need to keep in mind that they may not be able to manage a sustained long-term treatment plan. It’s important to meet their expressed and immediate need at that appointment when possible, especially if that need is pain relief.

Tailor oral health advice and supply hygiene aids whenever possible. For example, you do not need running water to brush your teeth.

Make sure administrative staff understand the eligibility criteria for homeless people who want to access dental care.

Mobile dental unit

Homeless people or those recovering from addiction can get a referral to a mobile dental unit run by Dentaid.

To get a referral, email tracey.vickers@nhs.net or call 07762 948 344.

Treatment is free of charge and includes:

  • dental checks
  • fillings
  • extractions
  • antibiotics
  • pain relief.

The mobile dental unit does not offer treatment under general anaesthetic, dentures or implants. If a patient needs this type of dental treatment they will be referred on to a dentist.

The next mobile dental unit will be:

  • date: Wednesday 20 September 2023
  • time: 9am to 3pm
  • address: Caring Hands, 15a to 16 New Road Avenue, Chatham, ME4 6BA.

Challenges for homeless people 

Some common challenges that homeless people face that can lead to poor oral health include: 

  • limited access to dental care. Even if a homeless person is registered with a dentist, they will need to show they receive Universal Credit to be eligible for free treatment
  • poor nutrition. Eating a poor diet can negatively affect teeth and gums. Once a person starts experiencing oral health issues, this may reduce their ability to chew and eat
  • lack of oral hygiene products. Good oral hygiene is hard to maintain without regular use of a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
  • substance misuse. Substance misuse, particularly methamphetamine, cocaine and opioids, can have negative effects on oral health
  • mental health issues. Depression and anxiety can make it feel difficult or overwhelming to maintain good oral hygiene.

How to promote good oral health if you work with the homeless 

If you are an organisation or charity working with homeless people, you can help improve their oral health by helping your client to get a toothbrush and toothpaste. Encourage them to use your bathroom facilities to brush their teeth.

If your client is registered with a dentist, remind them about appointments and go with them if possible to ensure they get there on time and to help them fill in forms.

If a homeless person is living in sheltered accommodation, their contact details might be subject to change. Consider if your organisation could be an address they can pick up post from.