DENTAL SERVICES FOR HOMELESS PEOPLE Bringing a smile to the streets
Two locations in Dublin city centre since 2003
Cornmarket Dental Clinic – Appointment service
Merchant’s Quay Project (needle exchange and rehab centre) – Drop-in service
Merchant’s Quay clinic closed since Jan ‘09 - moving premises. Many clients don’t make it ‘up the hill’ to Cornmarket, or can’t keep appointment-miss the drop-in service. Indicitive of importance of multiple centres.
What is special care dentistry?
Special care dentistry is a branch of dentistry that provides care for people with ‘special needs’ . This is a large group of the population in Ireland, some 365,000 people, who have one or more of the following:
A learning disability (e.g. Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder)
A chronic medical condition (e.g. cancer, congenital heart disease, epilepsy, clotting disorder, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease)
People who are socially excluded (e.g. people from the travelling community, homeless people, people who misuse substances).
Why are homeless people considered a special needs group?
Move frequently from place to place
Barriers to attendance of General dental practice
S taff attitudes
S elf esteem- teeth too bad already
M edical Card possession
W here to get Information on health services?
E xpectations- Emergency Treatment/ Full course
M issing dental appointments Fees for treatment
C hronic physical and psychiatric health issues- Infectious diseases
Not all homeless people fall into our preconceived ideas of Homelessness
Of more than 5000 Homeless people in Ireland, only 300 are rough sleepers. (Homeless Agency’s annual Winter Rough Sleeper Count and the Dublin Simon Community’s Health Audit) .
Number of rough sleepers is falling. Enough beds to cater for the population but sometimes not suitable/By choice.
And, the remainder? The population is wide and diverse.
Shenagh – 46,married in a middle class environmant, 2 children, physically abused by husband, alcoholic, staying in Focus sponsored alcohol rehab trans housing. Works in adult literacy center. Dental work P/-, ant. restorations
John – 38,HIV+,partner died of HIV,drug user,1child,staying in church sponsored rehab scheme. Now preaching. Dental work F/P
Natasha – 26,HIV+,Prostitute,Drug user,at risk of losing leg due to ulcers,offered a place to study in TCD. Dental F/P
Maggie – 24, From travelling community. Has been in many abusive relationships. Disowned when turned to drugs. Nowhere to turn. Keyworker from Focus has taken her under her wing. Very interested in her appearance but erratic attender. Fillings/Ext
Kevin – 52, unmarried man bottom of housing priority list. Staying in hostel to increase chances of housing. Skilled labourer, tells me he has a bigger disposable income than I do – I’m sure he’s right! F/P
Homeless people cannot be stereotyped
One thing in common – Their dentition has a positive effect on their self-esteem and rehabilitation.
The list is endless; all of these people have stories. They start off life often just like you or I and something happens that they find themselves on the streets.
A person is considered homeless if they "are sleeping on the streets or in other places not intended for night time accommodation or not providing safe protection from the elements or those whose usual night time residence is a public or private shelter, emergency lodging, Bed and Breakfast or such, providing protection from the elements but lacking the other characteristics of a home or intended only for a short stay”. Eastern Health Board 1999
There are 5581 registered homeless in Ireland .
The Simon Community have recently warned that this is a gross under-estimation. (March 2009)
Over 4000 homeless adults registered in Greater Dublin area and 1000 dependant children.
Of those, approx.10% sleep rough.
Accommodation; Emergency hostels, long term hostels, B&B accommodation, the Night Bus, refuge, some may stay with friends and family.
Homelessness and drug misuse
Whilst drug use is not the primary reason for people becoming homeless; it is a key reason for them remaining homeless. The primary reason for becoming homeless was family conflict ;
Other reasons for remaining homeless include access to housing, money problems, family conflict and continuing alcohol use;
Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug followed by heroin
Alcohol remains the primary drug of choice among the homeless population (70%);
Methadone and Benzodiapines popular both prescribed and black-market.
Over half (52%) of the homeless population are currently drug users;
36% are problematic drug users;
19% are currently injecting drugs, of these 1-in-2 injected in public spaces;
1-in-4 of current homeless drug users in Dublin use 5 or more different drugs;
30% has been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness;
Profile of Homeless Person in a Study undertaken in 2005
Gender: 69% male; 31% female.
Age: The average age of males 29 years and females 24 years.
Education: 25% had only primary education; 50% reached lower second level; 15% reached upper secondary; 6% reached third level and 4% other education such as FAS training and apprenticeships.
Employment: 66% were unemployed; 24% unable to work; 10% either working, retired, on training course or raising children. 55% of Simon clients in recent study receiving disability benefits.
Prison: 55% have been in prison.
Other: 15% suffer from other serious problems, the most common are the effects of violence and social isolation
Health of Homeless people
More likely to suffer from chronic ill health - arthritis, heart disease, TB, Hep C, skin problems, injuries, eye and ear complaints, bone and joint problems.
Homeless people die younger , average age between 42 and 53 years (Crisis UK 2003)
30% experience mental health problems
68% have attempted suicide . (Cleary and Prizeman 1998)
98% have unmet dental needs.
Dental Problems experienced by Homeless Population (O’Neill 2000)
Gross Caries – 4 times more teeth requiring extraction, twice as many teeth requiring fillings than general population.
Periodontal status – poor Only 1% of population have no treatment need. 54% require S&P. 45% require complex periodontal treatment, of that 27% had shallow pocketing, 6% had deep pocketing and 12% had loss of attachment >9mm requiring extraction.
Oral Mucosal lesions – due to denture wearing, ANUG, leukoplakia (white patches)
Trauma to incisors – 45% of the population Mainly untreated
Dental Problems experienced by Homeless People
Dental problems experienced by drug users
Neglect during drug use
High sugar cravings
Xerostomic effects of opiates (heroin)- Dry mouth is an increased risk factor for decay.
Analgesic effect of heroin masks symptoms of tooth decay. Pain is experienced once the person commences methadone with its reduced analgesic effect.
Roots and abscesses are a common complaint.
Severe attrition (tooth wear) due to grinding
Dental pain can lead to a drug relapse .
Lack of self-esteem , believing they don’t deserve to have a good appearance.
Effects of drugs on Dentition
Aim of service
The aim of the service is to provide pain relief and to improve aesthetics . This significantly improves self-esteem.
Antibiotics are provided from our store.
Extractions are often required for pain relief.
Not usually committed enough to have multiple visits for root canal treatment and crowns.
Anterior composite restorations and partial dentures provide good aesthetics without exorbitant cost and in a short space of time.
Regular visits are encouraged for scaling and it is good to say we have many re-attenders for maintenance treatment.
We have a store of Corsodyl rinse to give to patients.
The outreach program involves going to hostels, day centres to connect with the clients and give O.H.I, make appointments, discuss their concerns. Possibly the most important function of the service!
To assist patients in applying for a Medical Card .
Creating a bottleneck service with many new patients entering and nowhere for the rehabilitated patients to go for continuing treatment.
Patients not applying for Medical Card .
The chaotic nature of the lives of our patients means they appear sporadically. Courses of treatment are often started multiple times for the same patient.
Lost dentures ! John lost his 2 day old denture down the toilet!
Inter-disciplinary sharing of information is slow and tedious. There is a good relationship within the multi-disciplinary team for the Homeless population “Safety Net” (G.P, nurse, dentist, social worker, psychiatrist, key worker) but an essential computer network has never materialised. Basic medical history and medication lists would make life much easier if available at the push of a button.
Changing staff in the day centres and hostels. Keeping up to date with new staff to maintain links with the centres. Centres with interested staff refer the most patients.
Interestingly the DNA rate of approx. 20% is similar to that of many General Dental Practices. (Lee,Earnest,Chen 2005; Blankenstein 2003)
Challenges to the Service
The number of foreign nationals seeking treatment is increasing. Many are ineligible for treatment and with no money, have nowhere else to turn. EHIC entitles to emergency treatment, most don’t possess one.
According to the Department of Social and Family Affairs’s “habitual residency clause” rule, a person has to be resident in the State for two years before being entitled to any welfare payment, (or to register Homeless)
Embargo on recruitment has effected the service with no replacement for maternity leave.
Many dentists both in Private practice and HSE are reluctant to take on Homeless patients.
Unsure if the Merchant’s Quay clinic will re-open.
Patients empowered by new found confidence, both by having new teeth and by experiencing a positive relationship with a health care team.
To hear the changing life stories of the patients as they are rehabilitated.
The non-judgement of patients when they relapse into addiction, street sleeping or simply fail to attend to complete treatment.
Delight to see them re-attend. That they feel they can take up where they left off 6 months earlier.
To change a person’s attitude to the dentist, alleviate their fear .