Fishermen and their families at Poole were relieved of dental pain thanks to the SeaFit programme, which provided free dental checks and emergency treatment on the quayside last month.

Image: Fishermen’s Mission superintendent Nick O’Neill with fisherman Chris Skinner after he received free Dentaid treatment on the quayside at Poole.

Local fisherman Luke Buress was typical of many of the day’s patients. “I haven’t been to the dentist for 10 years, and I’m nervous about the whole thing. I’ve not been able to eat on one side for about a year now because it hurts too much. But I just put up with the toothache because I’ve had it so long.”

Dental charity Dentaid was commissioned by SeaFit to provide the free treatment, and succeeded in putting Luke and his fellow fishermen at ease. Working from their high-tech mobile unit, fitted with the latest dental equipment, the Dentaid team were at the quayside to treat patients and talk about dental health. During the course of the day, they carried out 10 examinations and oral cancer screenings, nine fillings and four scale and polish procedures.

Dentaid’s UK project manager Naomi Roche said: “This was a busy clinic, and the recurring theme was that fishermen are so hard at work that they often forget to take care of themselves. Many had missed appointments due to the irregular hours they work, so they were no longer registered for dental care. We saw some nervous and anxious patients who hadn’t seen a dentist for several years. It was great to get them onboard the unit and help to break down those barriers.”

Finding time to see the dentist is certainly a problem, as fisher Sarah Tait explained: “I’ve not been to the dentist for 29 years, apart from the odd emergency appointment. When you work in this business, you’re part of a team, and you can’t just have time off as you’d let your family and your customers down. We can’t take sick days – we just have to keep going. It’s the same with the dentist – we can’t go to an appointment if we need to be on the boat.”

Fisherman Chris Skinner had experienced similar problems, and was pleased with the SeaFit service. “My teeth just needed cleaning properly,” he explained, “but I was finding it hard to see a dentist. If you hadn’t come here, I wouldn’t have gone. But they gave me some really good advice today, and it’s a good idea.”

As well as free dental checks and treatment from Dentaid, cancer information specialists from Macmillan Cancer Support were there to answer questions about all aspects of cancer. Elaine Perry, Macmillan information and support specialist, said: “We had a great day at the quayside in Poole, talking to fishermen and women about cancer and helping them with any concerns or worries. Thank you to our friends at the SeaFit programme and the Fishermen’s Mission for inviting us along.”

SeaFit is a joint initiative from respected maritime charities the Fishermen’s Mission and Seafarers’ Hospital Society, working in partnership to deliver sustainable improvements to the health and wellbeing of fishermen and their families around the UK.

The SeaFit programme includes a range of initiatives covering physical, dental and mental health, and is funded by Seafarers UK.


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