Becky Joyce visits her dentist every Wednesday, but as the founder of a Leeds homeless charity, she is not concerned about her own dental issues.
Over the past year, Becky Joyce has been accompanying vulnerable clients to receive life-changing free NHS dental care as part of her efforts to restore their smiles.
Through her charity, Homeless Street Angels, she not only provides essential supplies like food, clothes, and toiletries to the homeless but also assists them in finding housing.
However, having a place to live is just the beginning of the journey for most of the individuals that the charity works with.
Homeless Street Angels goes beyond providing housing assistance and extends support to clients in completing applications, accessing substance abuse services, and acquiring furniture for their homes. According to Ms. Joyce, addressing dental care is the final crucial element to complete the overall support provided.
Individuals experiencing homelessness often face common dental issues, as accessing healthcare services can be challenging for them.
According to Munaf Qayyum, a dentist operating at High Ash Dental Surgery in Aldwoodley, he has treated homeless patients who have endured prolonged periods without any dental treatment, spanning several years.
Every Wednesday, Munaf Qayyum provides free treatment to four or five clients from Homeless Street Angels and Saint George’s Crypt, two homeless charities based in Leeds.
During initial appointments, the focus is often on addressing pain relief through extractions, fillings, and restorations. Subsequently, some patients may come back for further treatment, such as dentures and bridges.
These sessions are funded by NHS England as part of a project aimed at enhancing dental access for marginalized individuals.
According to Ms. Joyce, some clients initially had either no teeth or severely decayed teeth, but after several months of treatment, they regained their smiles, resulting in remarkable transformations that gave them a new lease on life.
She went on to say, “Upon completion of their treatment, they often become emotional, with tears welling up in their eyes.”
It’s a way of restoring their lives that have been affected by drugs, alcohol, and various challenges. It gives them not just a smile but also a fresh start.”
John Nicolson, aged 53, underwent denture fitting at High Ash last year, and he expressed feeling like an entirely new individual. Mr. Nicolson shared that he lost his privately rented flat following a stroke he experienced in 2011, which resulted in spending a year in the hospital.
After a year of residing in temporary accommodation, John Nicolson received support from Homeless Street Angels, which assisted him in securing a council flat in Middleton just this month.
Expressing his previous neglect of dental care, John Nicolson, a father-of-one, admitted, “I hadn’t taken care of my teeth for a long time. I neglected myself because I didn’t believe I was deserving of self-care. However, they have completely transformed my mindset.”
Ms. Joyce shared another success story, mentioning that another client secured a job and began working as a mentor after receiving dental care.
She also mentioned, “Before, he lacked confidence and would instinctively cover his mouth when speaking.”
Another individual expressed to her that he would have been “too ashamed” to attend his father’s funeral if he hadn’t received the dental treatment he underwent.
Mr. Qayyum, whose dental surgery is one of the two in Leeds participating in the project, described the work as “extremely fulfilling” and rewarding.
He added, “It’s not just about treating their teeth and sending them off. It’s also about helping them reintegrate into society, creating a positive impact. It’s an incredibly uplifting endeavor.”
Source : bbc.com