Between 14th September and 14th December 2023, fishermen and their dependent family members can access free dental checks, emergency treatment and oral cancer screening from a mobile dental unit in eight fishing ports across Cornwall and Devon. The treatment will relieve any immediate dental problems including simple tooth extraction, permanent fillings and scale and polish with referrals through NHS routes where more complex oral surgery is required.
These health events are made possible by Seafarers Hospital Society (SHS) and Smile Together, thanks to generous funding from the Department for Transport via the Merchant Navy Welfare Board. The events are delivered in partnership with The Fishermen’s Mission as part of their national SeaFit service, including their partner network of healthcare providers and charity partners, this award-winning partnership project is a fantastic example of integrated healthcare provision in coastal communities.
Discussing the project, Sandra Welch, Chief Executive Officer of SHS said “We are delighted to continue our support of the work of Smiles at Sea as part of SeaFit, and I truly believe this is an excellent example of how partners can collaborate together to bring health services to the quayside and make a real difference in our coastal communities.”
According to Alison Cane, Outreach Manager at Smile Together: “We’re passionate about tackling oral health inequality in our communities and this will be the seventh consecutive year that we have visited local harboursides across Cornwall and Devon to improve the oral health of fishermen and their families who so rarely get to see a dentist due to the demands of their work. Everyone who attends will receive one of our oral health packs including toothbrushes, toothpaste and a 2-minute timer along with top dental tips for all the family, signposting information to emergency dental care and healthy snacks, plus be entered into a free prize draw! We are also encouraging people to bring along their old toothbrushes, empty toothpaste tubes and associated packaging for recycling through our commitment to Colgate TerraCycle. Everything you’d expect from a certified B Corporation doing business for good!”
Carol Elliott, Manager for The Fishermen’s Mission’s national SeaFit service, says: “We are thrilled to be partnering once again with Smile Together and making a difference in our South West coastal communities. We are able to visit even more harbourside locations this year where Healthy Cornwall will also be providing free health checks and, in most locations, we’ll also be joined by a range of SeaFit healthcare partners. We hope that by spreading the visits over a 4-month period this year, even more fishermen and their families will be able to access this vital care and ensure safety at sea.”
The 2023 #SmilesAtSeaUK tour starts in Newlyn on 14th September 2023, visiting 8 harbourside locations over 10 days until 14th December.
Smiles at Sea 2022 visited 5 harbourside locations over 8 days treating 103 fishermen (active and retired) and their dependent family members, 12% of whom hadn’t visited a dentist for 5 years or more. We did 37 fillings, 10 extractions/root removals, 25 scale and polish and 10 x-rays, with 13 patients referred for urgent care/complex urgent minor oral surgery and/or to Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust for suspected oral cancer. 99% rated our visit as excellent and said they’d visit us in 2023.
Last year Smile Together and the Fishermen’s Mission also created a ‘Checking for mouth cancer at sea’ video to encourage fishermen to regularly check for any unusual changes in the mouth between our annual harbourside visits.
Fishermen who attended Smiles at Sea in 2022 found it extraordinarily valuable with comments including: “Everyone was very helpful – glad I was home from sea otherwise would have been waiting another 4 years”, “Can’t thank you enough. It’s amazing”, “10 out of 10. Very helpful and kind”, “‘Sociable as well as useful to see the dentist”.
Smiles at Sea partners are all national award-winners, most recently The Fishermen’s Mission winning at The Charity Awards 2023 and SeaFit winning Innovation of the Year at The Fishing News Awards 2023. Smiles at Sea itself is an award-winning programme having won Best Outreach or Charity Initiative in the national Dental Awards 2019 and shortlisted as Project of the Year in the Third Sector Business Charity Awards 2020.