Poor dental health among London homeless

AROUND 70 per cent of homeless people surveyed in London have reported losing teeth since becoming homeless, with 15 per cent having to resort to self-extraction.

This are findings from a new study by the homelessness charity Groundswell, which “reveals the extent of the poor oral health facing London’s homeless population”.

Over 260 people currently experiencing homelessness in London where surveyed in the Healthy Mouths Health Audit project via interviews or in focus groups. Participants were in a range of accommodation situations, including street homeless, temporary accommodation or other insecure accommodation like staying with friends and family.

The study found that 30 per cent of homeless people were currently experiencing dental pain and that seven in 10 reported having lost teeth since becoming homeless, with 17 per cent following acts of violence and 15 per cent having pulled out their own teeth.

The study found also found that 27 per cent had been to A&E for dental problems and 27 per cent used alcohol to help them deal with dental pain and 28 per cent had used drugs.

Seven per cent of participants reported that they had no teeth at all compared 6 per cent of the general population, but the research cohort was significantly younger than the general population where 92 per cent of people with no teeth are over the age of 65 compared to 93 per cent of research participants with no teeth under the age of 65.

Athol Hallé, Groundswell’s Chief Executive commented: “Oral health is a huge issue for people experiencing homelessness and action needs to be taken to address this damaging health inequality. Our report has revealed that current dental service provision is failing people and pro-active steps need to be taken by commissioners and by dental services to improve access to treatment.

"This study has shown that improving the oral health of homeless people, can make an important difference in people’s quality of life and ability to move on from homelessness. Reducing homelessness benefits everyone, such as by reducing reliance on emergency treatment."