A MOBILE dentist is being launched in Oxfordshire next week in a bid to tackle the county’s dental health problems.

The ‘tooth bus’ – which contains a dentists’ chair, computer and dental equipment – will be driven to various towns in the county from next Monday until February next year. It will offer free check ups to anyone who lives in Oxfordshire who has not seen an NHS dentist in the last two years.

Lack of regular attendance at NHS dentists is a particular problem in the county, as Oxfordshire is ranked 120th out of 150 primary care trusts across the country. According to the most recent Department of Health statistics, only 48 per cent of adults in Oxfordshire – or 236,235 people – had seen an NHS dentist in the last two years up to March 2012.

The tooth bus is part of a drive to improve UK access to NHS dentistry and promote oral health. Dentist Manuel Perez Padron, who is based at Iffley Dental practice, praised the idea. He said: “It raises awareness – the problem is access to dental care. “I think the tooth bus is brilliant because there are areas where people don’t have the transport to come to the dental practices. “There is a need for better access and more facilities in the most deprived areas.”

It comes after the Oxford Mail revealed fewer than half the children living in areas of Blackbird Leys and East Oxford regularly go to the dentist. There were 552 tooth extractions carried out on children in 2011/12 and most were from the OX4, OX16 and OX3 postcodes. Susanna Pressel, who sits on the Oxfordshire health overview and scrutiny committee, said: “It is a brilliant idea because lots of people put off going to a dentist and perhaps not registering with one.

“I am worried about parts of the city where children have a large number of holes in their teeth.

“I do hope this bus will be going to there and persuading children to have their teeth checked – good habits are important.” The tooth bus will stop at shopping centres, town centres, supermarkets and at community centres in and around Oxfordshire including Banbury, Abingdon and Bicester, with dates yet to be confirmed. Nicky Wadely, NHS Oxfordshire’s head of dentistry, said: “We’re excited about this initiative and hope people across the county take up the opportunity of a free dental check if they’ve not seen a dentist for two years or more. “Dental health is incredibly important; every year millions of people experience unnecessary discomfort, distress and even depression because of health problems with their teeth, gums and mouth.”

If a patient on the tooth bus needs treatment, they will be referred to their nearest NHS dental practice, where usual NHS charges apply. Winchester-based Iosis Dental Clinics Ltd has been commissioned by Oxfordshire PCT to deliver the NHS service.

Director Shapour Hariri said: “Mobile health care of this sort is a fantastic way of reaching out to communities who may not have easy access to dental or health clinics and can also be a good way of connecting health care with hard to reach communities.”

Find out more or book an appointment by visiting toothbus.co.uk or call 0844 8805331.



Confirmed stops so far:

  •  Monday, November 19 to Wednesday, November 21, at Broad Street, Oxford
  • Thursday, November 22, at Rose Hill
  •  Friday, November 23 to Saturday, November 24, at Bonn Square, Oxford
  • Further dates to follow. Check toothbus.co.uk