Stuart, a Wallich staff member with lived experience of homelessness, overcame a dental phobia and transformed his smile. Now, he wants to encourage others like him to do the same.
A chaotic lifestyle, involving substance misuse and a period of homelessness, contributed to significant dental implications for Stuart.
Following extensive work on his teeth, find out how the process went and the difference it’s made to Stuart’s life.
Why did you decide to go through this transformation?
“I’m a confident person, but I’ve always been self-conscious of my teeth.
I avoided the dentist for over 20 years, but the problems I was having with my teeth, from my previous lifestyle was starting to become a real issue.
I had missing teeth at the front, and very poor oral hygiene.
My job involves talking to and meeting new people every day, so I felt I needed to improve my confidence with my smile.”
Homelessness is more than losing a roof over your head. For many, it can negatively affect a person’s mental or physical health – including their teeth.
How did you feel about visiting the dentist beforehand? If so, has this changed?
“I was petrified of dentists and very nearly didn’t go through with it.
The one thing that helped, was the fact I was going to a University Dental Hospital, so I managed to convince myself that I wasn’t going to the dentist.
The staff were so good with me. I explained that I had a phobia and they tailored the treatment to help calm my nerves.
I think I will always be nervous when visiting the dentist, but I’ve overcome the actual phobia.”
12% of UK adults have a dental phobia. This is something that Stuart experienced and stopped him from achieving his perfect smile for many years.
How long has this process taken and how much did it cost?
“The whole process, including being on a waiting list has taken just over a year.
I had to have quite extensive treatment, but because of my phobia the staff let me complete the treatment at my own pace.
It didn’t cost me anything, because I went through the University Dental Hospital in Cardiff. I just had to cover my travel expenses.”
How was the process for you? Was it what you expected?
“Once I’d got over the initial nerves, it was great. I worked with the staff and made a treatment plan that suited me. I felt in control of the process.
Throughout the process, I had to make some lifestyle changes – adjusting my diet, reducing the amount I smoked. I’m still sticking to my healthier diet and I now use a vape, I don’t smoke.
Appointments at the University Dental Hospital were only during work times, this meant I had to use a lot of annual leave to attend appointments, but The Wallich were really flexible.
Once my treatment was complete, I took a week off work to get used to my new teeth and to adjust to eating and speaking.
It gave me a real confidence boost.
I no longer feel the need to hide my mouth, I feel proud to show my teeth and it’s easier to express myself.”
How can The Wallich clients go through this process and why should they sign up?
“Anyone can get the treatment but you have certain criteria that you need to meet.
– You are not registered with a dentist
–You will need to agree to be treated by supervised trainees
–Be willing to spend 1-2 hours with them on each visit
I’d recommend going through the University Dental Hospital for treatment, especially if you have a phobia. The dentists can be flexible, but you need to be committed.
I think for service users going through recovery, that need dental work, it’s a real incentive to not fall back into their previous lifestyle.
For me, it was the final piece of my recovery. It’s changed my life.”