Ukrainian refugees who were forced to flee their homeland have been receiving free dental health advice from Dundee students.
A number of Ukrainians living at The Best Western Queen’s Hotel on Nethergate were visited by a group nicknamed The Toothy Tigers.
The group spend time outside of their studies reaching out to locals who may be unsure about how to access treatment or find it difficult.
The prospective dentists, currently studying at Dundee University, spoke with several of the temporary residents who have been displaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Students want to connect with Ukrainians
Student Hannah Milner, who is a member of the group, said: “The Toothy Tigers aim to engage with the Dundee community and promote oral health for all.
“It’s important to connect with the public and chat about some of the barriers to accessing healthcare and do what we can to help change this.
“Connecting with the refugees here in Dundee is an important part of building strong relations in our community.
“We hope this event will open conversations on oral health while also demonstrating our support for the people of Ukraine.”
Ukrainians who have been displaced to Dundee by the conflict have been receiving support from healthcare organisations within the city, while nationally, refugees from the country are entitled to register with an NHS dentist.
However, like locals, they face lengthy waits for all types of NHS treatment due to severe underfunding, post-pandemic backlogs, and a staffing crisis.
Dentistry services under severe pressure
In one shocking recent case, a seven-year-old Ukrainian refugee and her mother were forced to return to war-torn Ukraine rather than wait four months for NHS dental treatment in Aberdeenshire.
In Dundee, dentistry practices with NHS contracts are unable to take on new patients due to a huge backlog of appointments.
As well as speaking to those displaced by the conflict, the students distributed toothbrushes and toothpaste, while advising people how to self-refer for treatment at the Dundee Dental Hospital, should essential or urgent care be required.
In tandem with the project, students are also working with a local foodbank to help ensure that those affected by the cost of living crisis are provided with oral health support.
Dr Clement Seeballuck, a lecturer in paediatric dentistry working with the students, said: “Our students are proactive in developing new opportunities that will enhance their training.
“These initiatives play a significant part of this, giving them experience of working across our local community, which will ultimately help them in their future careers.
“We know that there is a significant Ukrainian population in Dundee currently, and to be able to provide even the smallest bit of assistance will hopefully make their stay in the city as pleasant as possible.
“It is a huge testament to the generosity of our students that they have organised this event and we hope that it emphasises the strength of support that the city feels towards the Ukrainian community.”