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CDS marks a year providing dentistry to Safe Space’s homeless customers

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  Posted by: The Probe      3rd August 2022

For a year, Community Dental Services CIC has been running a drop-in dental clinic at Safe Space: an emergency housing provider in Derby, for people who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets. They provide people with a ‘safe space’ to get help, support and temporary overnight accommodation.  

The dental provision was set up by Maeve McLernon, Specialty Registrar in Special Care Dentistry and Heidi Nuttall, Specialist in Specialist Care Dentistry. Heidi said “We love providing the Safe Space clinics because we are able to reach a community who otherwise would really struggle to access a dentist. Their social and medical factors; along with reluctance to go into dental practices through fear of being judged, compound the difficulties faced by the general population with finding a dentist. We feel we can really make a difference sorting somebody’s pain or restoring their smile. These patients have so many issues in their lives. Having a dentist available on a drop-in basis means we can help to make one of their issues easier for them, and this is very rewarding.  

We are able to perform dental examinations, extractions, simple fillings and dentures as well as providing oral health advice. Our drop-in clinic is available to the homeless community and substance misuse patients, so a lot of our work we do involves taking out teeth and making dentures. Some of our patients have been in so much pain and we are able to free them of that and provide them with false teeth, often for those who haven’t had any teeth for a long time. I find these cases the most gratifying.” 

Ruth Golton, Safe Space Manager for Derby City Mission, explains why Safe Space is so important: “Within the wider homeless community, Safe Space is seen as a place of refuge and a place to come when you are in trouble. We have often had people turn up needing help or reassurance over a hot drink. 

 We provide services that our clientele may find difficult to access or are too afraid to go to. We have a dedicated homeless paramedic prescriber, a councillor, chiropodist and our staff provide help with accessing benefits and telephone interviews. We also provide a place of safety where guests can relax, have some food, talk, perhaps even do some cooking, all with the aim of helping their mental health and getting them back into normal working society.  
 We work with other projects within Derby City Mission: The Jubilee Debt Clinic, By My Side (helping people to get off an addiction) and Mt Place (helping to keep them in accommodation when they are difficult to house).” 

In addition, CDS is passionate about making a difference and has partnered with fellow social enterprise Change Please, to deliver dental services on a repurposed London bus, to support the dental and oral health needs of homeless people in London, through the initiative “driving for change”.

CDS also conducted a survey in April 2021 – April 2022 in Nottingham city to provide a ‘snapshot’ into the oral health needs of patients who have a background of SMD.

The findings highlighted a clear need for access to ongoing dental care,

Data was collected from 45 participants, and showed their past 12 months experiences were:

  • 17 experienced homelessness.
  • 26 experienced problems with drug or alcohol use.
  • 25 experienced problems with ill mental health.
  • 12 offending or involvement with courts.
  • 62% of participants had not attended a dentist for more than 2 years.
  • 55% of participants reported dental pain.
  • 31% of participants reported DIY dentistry with many telling of how they extracted their own teeth.
  • Almost all participants required dental treatment.
  • 55% required an extraction.
  • 60% required restorations.


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