A THIRD World dental charity has been helping vulnerable people in Bradford access dental treatment in a pilot project based at Bevan House Primary Care Centre.
Dentaid has been working with the centre, based in Piccadilly, Bradford, which itself caters for homeless people, refugees and asylum seekers across the district, to test out a scheme which proved popular in other parts of Yorkshire.
The two organisations have been working with the Yorkshire and Humber Deanery.
The scheme involves newly qualified foundation dentists volunteering their time.
Five clinics at Bevan House have already been held since early December some of which are for newly arrived refugees, but are also available for people who are unable to access NHS
dental care for a number of reasons, such as homelessness or those with addictions, through the primary care centre.
Dentaid has provided a portable chair for patients to sit on, fluoride varnish so their teeth can be protected and all the dental instruments for examinations, while Colgate and Henry Schein UK has donated toothpaste and toothbrushes for people free of charge.
NHS dentist Ian Wilson, from Leeds, who is one of the project leaders and is co-ordinating foundation dentists to provide voluntary dental care explained: "This scheme is very much a pilot scheme to assess if there is a definite need for this type of dental care in Bradford. It is following on from a similar scheme which was held in Dewsbury which helped around 150 out of dental pain last year.
"Bevan House is a superb example of community healthcare helping marginalised communities and this is something I am passionate about," said Mr Wilson, who spent 10 years providing dentistry work in Africa.
"We will be holding clinics at the centre around twice a week when new arrivals are assessed and will continue for as long as Bevan House allows us.
"Ideally we need to be running for around six months to be able to access the data, but the ideal situation would be to have a full time static unit in Bradford.
"They are small steps to start with and we have to make sure that the right people have access. It is not a walk-in service. At the moment people are triaged and given advice and, if necessary, treatment at the community dental van or at St Lukes if more urgent treatment or surgery is needed.
"We have to recognises now that the NHS is not able to cope and there are people out there who may be homeless, be job poor or vulnerable who don't have the money to pay for treatment, or even afford the bus fare to get to a surgery.
"We have to be philanthropic and entrepreneurial. Hopefully there are dentists out there who think to themselves, 'I've done all right, I've earned a good salary and now I'll give a bit back with my time' and then a full-time surgery will be possible.
"We have to look ahead and then start working out how it can be done. It's not going to be perfect because there will never be any money. If there was it was it would be going into the NHS.
"We are currently exploring options but at the moment we know we are helping those in marginalised communities who may not otherwise have an opportunity to see a dentist.
"We've held five clinics so far and have helped around 30 people."