“I’m going to my first dentist appointment to do some work on my teeth,” says a domestic violence survivor. “After the head shots, cans of soup were thrown at me, and more. This is such a great and important idea. “
The victim is one of many victims of a new program that will allow dentists to offer free treatment to those who have suffered violence from their abusive partner.
A national dentistry registry for victims of domestic violence is under development. It will include dentists willing to treat people whose teeth are damaged as a result of injury or as a result of coercive testing.
The initiative is the brainchild of Rachel Williams. She has first-hand experience of the damage domestic violence can inflict through life-changing injuries after her abusive husband attempted to murder her with a sawed-off shotgun in the barbershop where she worked.
Ms Williams, who had been in an abusive relationship for 18 years, says The independent dozens of dentists are already keen to get on board while the program is in its infancy.
She notes that many survivors of domestic violence cannot afford dentist treatment because they fled their abuser with just “clothes on”.
“As a survivor, you’ve taken so much of yourself,” adds Ms. Williams, now a leading domestic violence activist. “When you are with an abuser, you forget who you are as a person. You have been prepared and molded for how this abuser wants you. “
She said she has spoken to victims who say they “terribly” nibbled their teeth while sleeping due to anxiety. She also cited the example of a woman who had to move away to escape her attacker and had to wait at least six months to find an NHS dentist.
“Victims may not have good teeth, either through negligence because their abuser did not let them see a dentist, but also by women who have bad teeth due to a violent incident.”
Ms Williams, who can no longer run or cycle due to injuries sustained when her ex-husband shot her, says she was overwhelmed by responses from domestic violence victims telling her what a difference free dental treatment would do in their lifetime.
She noted that the chief executive of the British Dental Association, Martin Woodrow, said he wanted to be part of the initiative, while a woman from a community of 250 dentists wanted to get involved.
“It shows that there are many lovely people out there who want to help people on their journey to freedom,” adds Ms. Williams. “I hope to give people hope that there is light at the end of the domestic violence tunnel.”
After Ms Williams’ husband shot her, she later found out from case reports that her ex-husband had a history of domestic violence and violence with an ex-girlfriend. Police also found an arsenal of weapons hidden in his home.
“My teeth are falling out from the continued stress of the past six years,” said another victim of domestic violence. “Not eating, sleeping, or taking proper care of myself. Last dentist appointment, she said I was going to lose all of my back teeth. I hate what it did to me.
A woman is killed by a current or previous partner every four days in England and Wales.
“I had a broken jaw and nerve damage and I have trigeminal neuralgia from domestic violence, which thank God has improved so much in the past two years,” said another survivor. “But I was told my teeth would be in serious pain, and they did. The first few years I broke my teeth so badly from the injury that they look terrible now. Either way, I don’t have the best teeth. I really hate them. I just think what’s on the inside is what matters.
Tara Dorosti, a dentist who signed up for the program, said The independent she had recently helped a survivor of domestic violence whose teeth had been severely injured by her partner.
“She had been hit on the face and teeth several times,” adds Dorosti. “It affected his teeth. In addition, she gritted her teeth while sleeping due to the stress. This can have a bad effect on the teeth and lead to pain in the jaw. She was very worried about losing her teeth. She seemed to think that if she lost her teeth, it would be the last straw.
The dentist said seeing the patient had upset her – adding that the sleep patterns of victims of domestic violence were already often affected, so the pain in the teeth made the situation even worse.
Ms. Dorosti, who has been a dentist for 14 years, adds, “Dentists are in a good position to identify domestic violence. Things they might look for include patients canceling appointments, or if they are always accompanied by their partner when they come.
“Many abusers injure victims in places others cannot see, such as behind the ears, around the neck, on the head or in the hairline. This is not the usual place for people to get cuts and bruises. As a dentist, we can see.
She urged victims of domestic violence to remember that they can confide anonymously with their dentist who can then get them help from charities or the police.
Anyone who needs help or assistance can contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, which is open 24/7, 365 days a year on 0808 2000247 or through their website. nationaldahelpline.org.uk