What’s socially-inclusive dentistry all about?

‘Socially-inclusive dentistry’, not a term you probably hear everyday, but perhaps we should be hearing about it more often. What is it all about? It’s about focusing on solutions for treating patients who might be experiencing social exclusion, such as the homeless, or the traveller communities, as well as sex-workers and vulnerable migrants – these groups are often very hard to reach and engage in our services.6697 socially inclusive dentistry (1)-1

We held the first national conference focusing on socially-inclusive dentistry recently in Nottingham. We wanted to create an opportunity for collaboration between those working with socially-excluded populations and increase awareness of the need for socially-inclusive dental services.

We also wanted to understand the barriers that may prevent socially-inclusive dentistry, and explore ways of how we could overcome these.

Our one day conference attracted 135 delegates and we held 15 workshops and had 16 key speakers including leading ‘experts by experience’ who provided their first-hand insights on dental services for these ‘seldom-heard’ people.

The workshops focused on volunteering, medical, dental and social services for socially-excluded people, dental care for socially-excluded children, and highlighted the current research involving these groups.

The morning session heard from keynote speakers Andrew Dickenson, Postgraduate Dental Dean for the East Midlands, and Janet Clarke, Deputy Chief Dental Officer for England. They were followed by ‘expert by experience’, Stan Burridge, and myself in the afternoon.

Overall, the feedback we received was incredibly positive, delegates said they felt the conference had given them a better understanding of socially-inclusive dental services and the problems faced by socially-excluded groups. Delegates enjoyed the networking opportunities and the chance to meet like-minded practitioners, who were passionate about the idea of socially-inclusive healthcare and sharing idea.

One of the delegates shared their views on the conference:

This was truly a great conference. It was well organised and inspired not just me but many of my colleagues and others within the audience. This was the first national conference on Socially Inclusive Dentistry and due to its huge success I am sure there will be many more to follow.”

Since the event, one of the dental core trainees that attended has become involved with a local oral health promotion initiative and another has already developed an oral health outreach programme in the East Midlands.

We hope this conference is just the beginning of a much bigger conversation on socially-inclusive dentistry, and our challenge now is to translate these conversations and ideas into on-the-ground action and change.

Janine Doughty
Academic Clinical Fellow in Special Care Dentistry, Eastman Dental Hospital

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