According to a 2017 report from Healthy Mouths, up to 60 percent of homeless people have experienced dental problems since they became homeless and 15 percent have had to pull out their own teeth. Which is incredibly alarming.
Luckily, to prevent people being forced into such drastic acts of self-dentistry, there are saints like Gaz Radi around. Radi is the principal dentist at Acton Town Dental Practice, where he treats the homeless community for free. He and his staff have been seeing homeless patients for two years, taking referrals from local charity Open Soulz.
What’s more, Radi is also involved in a wider monthly community event. One Sunday a month, he and his staff, who all volunteer for the shift unpaid, are joined by caterers serving hot meals, hairdressers offering free haircuts and even bands of musicians – all to help out the local homeless community.
Radi told MyLondon: ‘There’s largely no provisions for the homeless, only some hospitals for emergency services.
‘I’ve found we largely see two main groups in this community. You have the people in specific pain who need to get out of pain. And then the people who want to turn the chapter. They want to start going to job interviews and start a relationship and if their teeth don't look nice, it’s a burden to them. We want to keep them smiling.’
It's common for homeless people to struggle with regular dental hygiene. After all, when faced with the constant worries of hunger and sleep, one imagines that finding a toothbrush and toothpaste isn’t such a high priority. And when homeless people do face problems with their teeth, there are further issues – dental practices are also usually either too expensive or simply won’t take them, so many are forced to instead go to A&E.
All of which makes Radi even more saintly. Born in Syria, Radi studied dentistry in Cardiff and now lives in Ealing, and he fully deserves to be recognised for fighting prejudice and supporting some of the most vulnerable members of society. If only everyone was a bit more like Gaz Radi.
If you’d like to go along to one of Radi’s monthly events, see his practice’s website for more details. Otherwise, charities like Dentaid and Driving for Change also work to provide free dental care and treatment for rough sleepers across the capital.
And for the bigger picture: how has London’s homeless situation changed since the pandemic?