Dudley’s Community Toothbrush Scheme

How can a toothbrush make a difference for people experiencing homelessness or poverty?

You might not think that a toothbrush is a big deal, but for some people, it can make a significant difference to their health and well-being. That’s why Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council launched a community toothbrush scheme to help people who are struggling including those who are at risk of homelessness or experiencing homelessness in the Dudley local authority area.

The scheme, which started in the autumn last year, provides free toothbrushes and toothpaste to any resident of the local authority area who needs them. Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council have provided many organisations across the borough, including foodbanks, charities, warm spaces and religious places of worship, with free toothbrush packs to give to members of the community who are in need.

Why is oral health important when we are talking about homelessness?

Back in 2018 the charity Groundswell conducted a peer-led health audit on the oral health of people experiencing homelessness in London called “Healthy Mouths”. 

The conclusion to the “revealed the significant oral health problems that homeless people in London are currently facing. The day to day realities of homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse and mental ill-health are clear drivers in this issue. However this study reveals that there are additional systemic barriers that homeless people face in order to access oral health treatment and ongoing care

Oral health problems among participants in this study are widespread and are having a significant impact on people’s quality of life and in some cases are restricting individual’s ability to move on from homelessness.

These problems are also likely to be placing an increased burden on other health services, particularly emergency care.

However participants in this study felt positively towards oral healthcare professionals and, given the opportunity, demonstrated a desire to improve their oral health. Access to dentistry is not only key to having a good smile, but is essential to general health and wellbeing. By improving access to dental care we can play an important role in ultimately supporting people experiencing homelessness to change their lives.”

Support from as soon as a child has their first tooth

One of the ways in which Dudley’s Community Toothbrush Scheme is helping is to support families in taking care of their teeth from as soon as a child has their first tooth.

The packs include a toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste, information postcard about the importance of oral health. For families with babies, free flow cups are also available as part of the pack as these promote better oral health than the non-spill type

They are also providing every child in KS1 via the education settings a free toothbrush pack and a new Healthy Lunchbox Resource which promotes healthy eating and making tooth friendly food swaps.

Through Dudley’s Community Toothbrush Scheme, many organisations across the borough have been provided with free toothbrush packs to give to residents.

Please see the participating organisations here.

Dudley’s Community Toothbrush Scheme is a partnership initiative between Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and Office of the West Midlands NHS Intergrated Care Boards. More information can be found at the Health Dudley Website