Vulnerable families and rough sleepers will be offered free healthcare thanks to a dentist-on-wheels set to travel across the West Midlands.
The mobile dental checks are being launched by Black Country-based Midland Langar Seva Society (MLSS) after volunteers realised vulnerable people were struggling to get the help they needed during the pandemic.
Rising costs and not having a permanent home has made it difficult for rough sleepers to access essential dental care, charity founder Randhir Singh Heer said.
The new DentHealth van has been kitted out with the latest gear ready to treat the dental woes of the region’s most in need, including fillings, tooth extractions and polishes.
It will be the first time some homeless people across the West Midlands will have ever received dental treatment.
A 10-strong team of volunteers, including two dentists, will park up in streets and treat patients in the comfort of the van – which has been funded entirely by donations to the Walsall charity.
Mr Heer, from Aldridge, Walsall, said: “For the homeless and less fortunate people, it is incredibly hard to access dental treatment due to rising costs and simple barriers like not having a fixed address, which has meant that their dental health can deteriorate quite quickly.
“The MLSS DentHealth van will be a fully-fitted mobile dentist, which can be taken to various locations in the UK.
“We have a MLSS volunteer who is a retired NHS dentist and a team of volunteer dentists who will be working for our service users free of charge.
“They will be following General Dental Council guidelines [regarding] treatment of patients.”
Celebrations marking the launch of the DentHealth bus were held at Walsall’s Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, in West Bromwich Street, on Saturday.
Volunteer Sharon Bharaj said the Sikh charity is now looking for people across the region to highlight the areas where the van should make a stop.
The 30-year-old said: “We have got a lot of service users and obviously during the pandemic they have had a number of issues but there was no way for them to get seen by the dentist.
“So we thought, why not create something where we can see people who might not be able to go to the dentist.
“What we are hoping to do is to take it to areas where there is quite a fine line of poverty or deprivation.
“The reason it’s mobile is so we can travel out to wherever it is needed.”
The mother-of-two, from Hamstead, Birmingham, added: “It’s the first time we are doing something like this. We have set up healthcare camps before but it’s never been mobile.
“It’s amazing. Our charity, it’s all about helping, and there’s nothing like this – I’ve never heard of a mobile dentist before.
“We are all very happy and proud that we are able to do something for the community.
“It’s a milestone. We have service users, who last went to the dentist 20 years ago. For some of them, it’s really important because they are out on the streets.
“When you are vulnerable or homeless, dental hygiene is sometimes the last thing you think about. For some, this is really is a first-time experience.
“Some of them have never been to the dentist. Going to the dentist, we dread it. But some of these people have never been and knowing that their health is being catered for, we get that sense of fulfilment.”
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