The Dentist Magazine.

Fishermen in Poole receive free dental care at Quayside

Pete Williams after treatment at Poole Quayside

Published: 7/9/2018 12:00:00 AM

Fishermen in Poole received free dental treatment when a mobile dental unit visited the quayside.

The joint project between international dental charity Dentaid, the Fishermen’s Mission and The Seafarers’ Hospital Society (SHS) was established for fishermen who find it hard to access dental care because they work long days out at sea.

Dentaid’s mobile dental unit parked on the quayside and volunteer dental professionals offered fishermen a dental check-up as they came ashore. Treatments included extractions, fillings, scale and polish and oral heath advice. Many fishermen are not registered with a dentist and live with persistent dental pain.

“I haven’t seen a dentist since I was 12 and I’ve become so self-conscious about the state of my teeth that I cover my mouth with my hand when I talk to people,” said the first patient, Pete Williams, who had a scale and polish and filling on the mobile unit. “I would have liked to go to a dentist but if my appointment was on a good day for fishing I would have to go out to sea, otherwise we’d have no money. I often work 18 hour days and fishermen don’t get paid time off for dental appointments.  As my teeth got worse I worried I’d need lots of visits to the dentist, so I just put up with it.  The mobile unit coming here has been brilliant because I can get everything done in one go.”

Some of the fishermen who visited the mobile clinic said the cost of dental care was a barrier to them accessing treatment.  “I was registered but I couldn’t afford to keep going,” said fisherman Dave Green.  His nephew Dan Green, who had two painful teeth extracted, added, “I’ve had toothache for so long but I can’t get to a dentist.  As a fisherman I find it very hard to find time and money to look after myself.  There are lots of issues affecting us, like homelessness and poverty, so getting to a dentist isn’t ever top of the list.”

“We were very pleased to provide fishermen in Poole with dental care on our mobile unit and understand some of the difficulties they face accessing treatment,” said Dentaid CEO Andy Evans. “The mobile unit takes dental care right to the communities who need our help and we hope we can now repeat the project in Poole and visit other fishing communities around the country.” 

SHS health development manager, Lysanne Wilson, said, “Dental health is just as important as physical and mental health, but when you’re out at sea it’s often not a priority. We’re making it easy by bringing free dental treatment to the harbourside, so it fits around the fishermen and their busy working lives. We believe that by partnering with Dentaid and the Fishermen’s Mission, who closely support fishermen and their families, we can make a real and lasting difference to the fishing community, not just in Poole but in other fishing communities around the country.”

Nick O’Neill, superintendent for Fishermen’s Mission, South Coast, said, “Dentaid treated seven very grateful fishermen in Poole, saving them time and money and preventing needless pain. That must be good for the fishermen and good for business too. Fishermen have traditionally experienced problems accessing health services due to the nature of their job and the irregular hours they work.  We are committed to improving the welfare of our fishermen and this harbourside dental service enables the crews and their families to drop in and have a check-up, something they probably haven’t done in years.”

The Poole initiative is part of a larger dental health care project being piloted by the Society in partnership with the Fishermen’s Mission. Lysanne added, “We have a programme of free dental checks and treatment that we’re currently rolling out across the South West and elsewhere, using Dentaid and other non-profit providers to deliver the service. The response so far has been excellent and we’re very excited about the prospect of doing more.”

Dentaid’s mobile unit also visits homeless shelters, day centres and soup kitchens across the UK providing dental treatment for vulnerable people who find it difficult to access NHS treatment.