Oral health behaviours amongst homeless people attending rehabilitation services in Ireland


Statement of the problem: Research on oral health behaviours and dental care service uptake of drug users and those in recovery remains scant.

Purpose of the study: The research aimed to explore and describe perspectives of drug users on their oral health behaviours, awareness of oral health complications caused by alcohol, cigarette and drug use, dental service uptake and opinions on improved dental service for active and recovering addicts.

Materials and methods: Two focus groups with a purposeful sample of participants (n=15) were conducted in two treatment and rehabilitation settings. The semi-structured guide consisted of open questioning relating to dental access and uptake, oral health, awareness of oral cancers, nutrition and substance consumption on oral health, and opinions around optimum oral health and dental service provision for active drug users and those in recovery. Thematic analysis of narratives was conducted.

Results: Participants described barriers to access and uptake, poor levels of preventative dental care, DIY dentistry in the event of dental emergencies, substance use to self-medicate for dental pain, mixed awareness of the effects of sugary products and substance use on oral health and cancers, and emphasised the importance of preventative dental care and dental aesthetics when in recovery.

Conclusions: Findings illustrate a profile of oral health behaviours in Irish drug users, with information useful for private and public practice, and in the further development of street, community and treatment setting oral health interventions.

Dr Marie Claire Van Hout
School of Health Sciences, Waterford Institute of Technology, Waterford

Evelyn Hearne
Dublin Simon Community, Rehab Services, Ushers Island, Dublin 8

Corresponding author: Dr Marie Claire Van Hout
School of Health Sciences, Waterford Institute of Technology, Waterford
E: mcvanhout@wit.ie