The fishing community in Cornwall and Devon will soon be smiling thanks to an initiative enabling local fishermen and their families access to free dental check-ups and oral health tips at the harbourside.

The Seafarers Hospital Society and Fishermen’s Mission have hooked up with award-winning dental social enterprise Smile Together to offer free dental checks and follow up treatment for local fishermen and their immediate family members, in six locations across Cornwall and Brixham in Devon.

Funded by the Society, the ‘Smiles at Sea’ initiative will see volunteers from Smile Together embark upon a two week tour in a fully equipped mobile dental unit. The tour starts in Newlyn (18 & 19 June) and will also be harbourside in Hayle (20 June), Newquay (21 June), Padstow (22 June), Mevagissey (25 & 26 June) and Looe (27 June) before finishing in Brixham (28 & 29 June).

As part of National Smile Month, ‘Smiles at Sea’ will also see fishermen and their families screened for oral cancer, receive immediate dental treatment at the harbourside, and be entitled to subsidised follow-up private dental treatment as recommended by the dentist on the day. This further treatment will be available from Smile Together’s Brighter Dental team which has practices across the county.

Seafarers Hospital Society are funding the service on the harbourside, which means that it’s absolutely free for fishermen and their families, and any follow up treatment that’s required will be paid for by the charity too – all the patients need to do is pay a standard NHS contribution.

There are many reasons why this is so important – it’s difficult to get dental treatment when you work at sea and we know that by involving the whole family and not just the fishermen, looking after their teeth is more likely to be sustained.

In some harbourside locations there will also be free NHS Health Checks available from Healthy Cornwall which examine several elements – height, weight, body mass index, blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol – used to calculate the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and dementia. Men actively working in the fishing industry, and aged between 40-74 years, can just turn up and have a check for free.

Lysanne Wilson, Health Development Manager at The Seafarers Hospital Society, a long-standing maritime charity dedicated to improving the health, wellbeing and welfare of seafarers, explains: “We’re delighted to be working with the Fishermen’s Mission and Smile Together to bring free dental health checks to fishermen and their families in Cornwall and Brixham. Dental health is just as important as physical and mental health, but when you’re out at sea it’s often not a priority. We’re making it easy by bringing free dental treatment to the harbourside, so it fits around the fishermen and their busy working lives. By working in partnership with Smile Together and the Fishermen’s Mission, who closely support fishermen and their families,  we can make a real and lasting difference to the fishing community. And if this initiative is successful, we hope to extend it even further in 2019″.

Nicola Barr, Clinical Director for West Country Dental Care, the community dentistry arm of Smile Together, says:  “Access to dental care is one of the biggest health challenges in our region so we are really pleased to receive funding from the Seafarers Hospital Society to enable us to mobilise and tackle the issue, to go further into our communities to help those who need us most.  We’re building upon our successful initiative last year when we saw over 100 patients at the harbourside in Newlyn, Padstow and Mevagissey, where 5+ years was the average time since those fishermen last saw a dentist. This year we’re extending provision to include the fishermen and their dependent family members and our volunteers are very much looking forward to continuing our commitment to creating healthier, happier communities.”

Keith Dickson, Senior Superintendent for Fishermen’s Mission, South West said “Fishermen have traditionally experienced problems accessing health services due to the nature of their job and the irregular hours they work.  These services at the harbourside offer an opportunity for the crews and their families to drop in and have a check-up, something they probably haven’t done in years, as well as receiving sound advice or referral on to appropriate medical services.  Previous check-ups have identified several serious health issues that required immediate support and prevented serious illness and time ashore, which fishermen can ill afford as they struggle to make a living.”

Dr Caroline Court, Interim Director of Wellbeing and Public Health at Cornwall Council, who commission Healthy Cornwall added: “We are delighted to be working with Seafarers Hospital Society, Smile Together and the Fishermen’s Mission to reach people who might otherwise not see a dentist or doctor. Helping individuals to make good choices about their lives and health is an important part of the work of the Healthy Cornwall team, and improving people’s health and wellbeing in this way reduces cases of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.”

Full details of the Smiles at Sea campaign tour can be seen at www.smilesatsea.co.uk

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