University of Plymouth

Highly Commended

Addressing systemic barriers to accessing dental care for those experiencing homelessness

People who experience homelessness often have more acute dental needs and poorer oral health-related quality of life compared to the general population. However, their utilisation of dental services and levels of treatment completion is understandably low. The Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise (PDSE), a not‐for‐profit organisation aligned to the University of Plymouth’s Peninsula Dental School, is working to address this and improve awareness nationally.

Building upon the legacy of its community dental clinics that provide NHS dental treatment to thousands across the South West, it has launched a specific service to treat vulnerable members of the community who are experiencing homelessness and other forms of social exclusion.

The treatment is provided free-of-charge by a dentist, and referrals for this service are made through local residential homeless centres and GP outreach services. This community-based service has been developed collaboratively with a range of partners including people with lived experience of homelessness.

What the Judges Thought

The judges were impressed with the innovative change to delivery of clinical dental care for homeless people, and the cultural landscape created. It has great facility for empowerment across the country and abroad, and for transfer to other clinical disciplines.

What it Means to Win

“As a University that prides itself on advancing knowledge and transforming lives, we are so proud that our dental team has been recognised with a Green Gown Award. It is testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in delivering social benefit through this special dental clinic.”

Professor Judith Petts CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive

Top 3 Learnings

  1. We have learned that there are numerous barriers to accessing dental services for people who are experiencing homelessness – and that this is a national issue.
  2. Dental services need to be reconfigured to recognise the complex and diverse needs of those members of society we class as vulnerable.
  3. Improving dental health can prove a catalyst to a whole range of health and wellbeing benefits for people.
3 - Good Health and Well-Being 4 - Quality Education 10 - Reduced Inequalities 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
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