A dental charity that supports dentists in times of crisis has received six months’ worth of applications in just three weeks as the profession struggles in the face of coronavirus.
This comes as other industry charities fight for funding as they are forced to pause their international operations.
Practice income levels have plummeted since lockdown halted routine dentistry, with some staff being furloughed and only urgent dental care being permitted in designated hubs across the UK.
Ros Keeton, chair of the BDA Benevolent Fund – which provides financial aid to dentists, dental students and their families – says the charity has been inundated with requests.
‘The pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives over the last four weeks. Many dentists have found themselves in a place, both professionally and personally, they could never have imagined.
‘For some dentists, practical issues around personal finance have been the greatest worry. In the space of just three weeks we received the same number of applications as we normally see in six months.’
Demand is challenging
Ros adds: ‘We have been working non‐stop to help dental students, dentists and their families as quickly as possible. We are also hosting a series of free webinars, helping to improve general and financial wellbeing in ways that are practical, accessible and easy to understand. The next on is on 21st May at 6pm and people can register here.
‘I am not sure that we would call them difficulties but certainly meeting demand is challenging. When we look back in future years, this most certainly will have been an unprecedented time in the charity’s history.
‘The staff are working remotely and are continuing to answer calls and emails, so we do encourage anyone who would like our support to contact us in the usual way. We are still here to help, come what may.
‘In addition, as always, our ultimate aim is to reach more people. General awareness – especially amongst younger dentists – is still too low.
‘We need dentists in all areas of the UK to help spread the word. If you know someone who is finding it hard to cope, please make sure they know about us. If we can help, we will.’
For the BDA Benevolent Fund, the simplest way to support them is to give online either with a one-off gift or on a regular basis. Click here to get involved.
Additionally, we hear from three more dental charities who talk about how they are coping under the constraints of lockdown.
Cally Gedge is a co-founder and trustee for the charity Dental Mavericks, which promotes oral health and hygiene within vulnerable communities in countries like Morocco and Lebanon.
‘As a volunteer-lead NGO we are, like the rest of the dental charities, heavily affected by COVID-19.
‘Our income halted to nearly zero as most comes through our projects and volunteers. But I don’t want to use this opportunity to complain as we are still making a big difference out in the field.
‘Part of our work is working with Syrian refugees and vulnerable communities in Lebanon in Beirut and the Bekaa Valley.
‘The country is on lockdown so our field coordinator, Marta, has been working with front line NGOs supplying equipment in the camps and also helping support the clinics around the camps that are doing emergency care.
‘We have also put together a series of videos for refugees helping them to take care of tooth pain and supplying the camps with anything needed to help this whilst they cannot get to the clinic.
‘In Morocco our oral hygiene beneficiaries would have reached 266.000 this year but that is not to be. Instead, we are developing the same videos to put out to the hard-to-reach rural communities and working with our partners on how we can continue to help with our existing stock.
‘For volunteers, we are continuing to communicate on our work and running webinars each month on all the great work and memories we have accumulated over the past 10 years to keep us positive.
‘We are, of course, desperate for help – we have low overheads but need to keep going.
‘We have devised a campaign which all DCPs can help us with either as a team or individually, which is called ‘Somones’s Trash is Someone’s Treasure’.
‘I have seen lots of people clearing out garages and homes as they have spare time. Please could you either keep this to one side and do a car boot sale after lockdown. Alternatively, set up an eBay page and sell on there for faster results.
‘Every penny counts for us right now so any help we will love you for.’
Dentaid is a charity that works to improve oral health overseas and in the UK.
‘The coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating effect on all aspects of Dentaid’s work. Not only have we had to cancel or postpone our busy programme of summer fundraising events, the restrictions on international travel and UK dentistry are having a severe impact on our projects.
‘Uncertainty about how the virus will spread globally and the length of time that countries will be in lockdown, led to the difficult decision to postpone all 2020 volunteering trips until next year.
‘Volunteers due to travel to Uganda, Kenya, Morocco, Malawi and Cambodia in the coming months have all be invited to join our 2021 volunteering programme. Obviously we have to make the safety of our volunteers, patients and overseas dental partners our priority.
‘However, we are devastated that thousands of people in schools, orphanages, prisons, refugee camps and remote communities won’t have access to the safe dental care and oral health education programmes they need.
‘The cessation of all but the most urgent dental care in the UK is also having a terrible impact on Dentaid’s projects that provide free treatment for those who need it most. All of Dentaid’s mobile clinics that provide outreach, emergency dentistry for homeless and vulnerable people have been stopped for now.
‘New projects that offer emergency dental treatment for the street homeless, those at risk of abuse or struggling with addiction have all had to be suspended. When Dentaid’s UK projects get back up and running the need will be even greater than ever.
‘Once the lockdown restrictions are eased, Dentaid will need its amazing team of volunteers, fundraisers and supporters more than ever before. Volunteer dental professionals will be needed to run clinics on the charity’s two mobile dental units providing emergency pain relieving treatment for the most vulnerable people in our society.
‘There will be a newly-organised fundraising programme and we must get back to providing equipment and support for our dental partners around the world so they can deliver outreach care in the poorest and most remote communities.
‘The challenge will be huge but Dentaid has had incredible support throughout its 24 year history and we hope we can overcome this crisis thanks to the compassion and commitment of all those involved with our charity.’
Shaenna Loughnane is the CEO of Bridge2Aid, which helps to strengthen local dental care provision in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.
‘All the team is furloughed, and I am working as an unpaid volunteer. We have had to cancel all programmes until the end of this year, including our pilot in Malawi.
‘In addition, all volunteers have been offered their money back or a roll-over to next year. Thankfully, regular givers are still donating, but all events, corporate donations, have dried up. People are very understandably supporting local charities.
‘At the moment, the office is being used for our local town’s mutual aid work, including delivering food parcels and prescriptions, and as a soup kitchen.
‘Meanwhile, a number of our team are volunteering for local community groups. To keep everyone in the loop, we are having a bi-weekly team Zoom calls.
‘We also ran an appeal for our supporters to assist their friends and our partners in Tanzania – Education and Health for All (EH4ALL). They are suffering and don’t have the same level of government financial support as we do in the UK.
‘Plus, we’re holding a virtual ‘Quiz and Curry Night’ in the next couple of weeks to bring our supporters together.
‘We completely understand that, at this difficult time, people will turn to support their neighbours and communities who are suffering financial hardship, so we are paring back to ensure the long-term survival of the charity.’
The charity is asking people to get involved with the 2.6 challenge this Sunday (26 April), when the 40th London Marathon should have been held. Click here to get involved.