It’s National Volunteers’ Week and Bupa Dental Care and its official charity partner, Dentaid, are using the occasion to thank the hundreds of volunteers who give their time and skills to provide free dental treatment to homeless and vulnerable people across the UK, at a time when demand for services has never been higher.

Dentaid CEO Andy Evans said, “It’s a sad fact that many people in the UK don’t receive dental care. Homeless and vulnerable people face many barriers to accessing treatment. By taking a mobile dental service to a location where they feel safe and comfortable, we are breaking down those barriers and helping the most vulnerable people in our society get the dental care and oral health advice they need.”

The charity has been busier than ever, having already completed more than 50 clinics this year.
So far in 2021 the mobile dental units have visited Bournemouth, Salisbury, Chippenham, Winchester, Southampton, Fareham, Portsmouth, Worthing, Eastbourne, Hastings, Folkestone, Leeds, Bradford, Dewsbury and York. They provide vital services to people like Martin, who has been street homeless and is vulnerably housed in Eastbourne. He relies on soup kitchens and food handouts.

Martin commented, “I never went to the dentist before Dentaid came here. I just had to manage and get used to toothache, but it hurt to eat. Last time the Dentaid dentist pulled out a tooth that was really hurting me and I’m hoping they can help me again with one on the other side because it hurts here now and there’s no-one else to help me.”

Neil Sikka is chief dental officer for Bupa UK Insurance and deputy chair of the Bupa Foundation Dental Community Committee which supports and promotes charitable activity across the organisation. He recently volunteered on the Dentaid mobile unit in Southampton.

Mr Sikka said, “Being in a position to help those less fortunate is a privilege. However, having the skills to be able to physically reduce suffering and pain is truly life enhancing. My day with the Dentaid team in Southampton was a wonderful experience. They run a very efficient service, keeping me busy from the moment I arrived. Our patients, residents from the local shelter, were incredibly grateful for our support and even shared some stories from their colourful past! I will have no hesitation in volunteering again. Thank you Dentaid for the opportunity.”

Volunteering is something that is actively supported and encouraged throughout Bupa. The organisation launched a new volunteering policy last month, which allows all UK employees to request up to three days paid volunteer leave each year to support its official programmes, like Dentaid.

Gabriela Pueyo, general manager at Bupa Dental Care, said, “It’s our passion to help people live longer, healthier, happier lives, and supporting local communities is an important part of this.I want to say a big thank you to all of our people at Bupa Dental Care who have given their time and skills to support the important work of Dentaid, and other charities.”

In addition to providing volunteers to Dentaid’s mobile units, Bupa Dental Care, through the Bupa Foundation, has also donated a further £10k to the charity to support its work in the UK and overseas. The money will be used to provide equipment for dental outreach services to communities in need in Kampala, Uganda, and also provide regional support here in the UK, as Andy Evans explains, “We have such a great demand for new clinics all of the time. This donation will help us create five regional clinics in new locations and help us reach vulnerable and homeless people with the care they so desperately need.”

The Dentaid mobile unit will be back on the road during Volunteers’ Week, hosting a clinic in Bournemouth on June 2 for a large supported living programme for homeless and vulnerably housed people, and in Portsmouth on June 4 at a hostel and soup kitchen for street homeless people in the city.