Campaign calling for free dental care for cancer patients

Mags McNeil started the campaign after chemotherapy led to her needing treatment on her teeth.

A petition has been launched calling for free dental care for all cancer patients.

Mags McNeil, from East Kilbride, started the campaign after chemotherapy led to her needing treatment on her teeth.

She told STV News: “On day 15 I took a toothache, just a small one. But the toothache just got worse and worse to the point that I couldn’t stand it anymore.”

Ms McNeil had to have two teeth removed and ended up with an infection in her jaw delaying further chemotherapy.

It was then she discovered not all cancer patients are entitled to free dental care.

She said: “When you’re going through chemotherapy this is the last thing you want to be thinking of.

“If we’re looking to treat cancer patients, dental health has to be part and parcel of that.”

Ms McNeil has now set up a petition to call for dental treatment to be free for all Scottish cancer patients for a period of five years from diagnosis or for life if the cancer is treatable but not curable.

She said: “If I was a younger woman and pregnant, I would get free dental treatment because pregnancy affects your teeth.

“Chemotherapy is known to cause tooth problems, so if it’s known why aren’t we getting free dental treatment?”

Patients are encouraged to visit their dentist before chemotherapy to try to resolve any outstanding issues. However, oral problems can develop as treatment progresses.

Dentist Ciaran Brown, of Whitecart Dental care, said: “Chemotherapy targets the cells of fast turnover so that’s why you see people with hair loss for example and a lot of these cells are also in your mouth.

“Patients who are undergoing chemotherapy most likely will have ulceration and inflammation of the mouth.

“There’s a chance they will be at higher risk of infections, they could have higher instances of tooth decay and gum disease. After treatment you can find that you can get more decay later.”

The Scottish Government has an £18m partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support to ensure every cancer patient in the country has access to emotional, practical and financial advice.

People on certain benefits are exempt from paying dental charges.

The Scottish Government says it is continuing to look at ways to help relieve some of the financial stress for cancer patients, but has not gone as far to say it will get rid of costs for treatments completely.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Ministers understand that people with cancer can face unexpected or unavoidable costs and we continue to work with partner agencies like Macmillan to help remove some of the financial stress that can happen.

“Patients receiving treatment for cancer should always have access to advice and support from their oncology teams and primary care dental teams on how to maintain healthy teeth and gums.  

“All dental examinations and advice are free in Scotland and cancer patients may be eligible for free dental treatment as part of a secondary care consultant-led medical treatment plan.

“Many adults are exempt from paying dental charges, including those in receipt of certain benefits such as income support and Universal Credit below certain income thresholds. 

“Patients can also apply to the NHS Low Income Scheme, where the applicant may receive help towards the cost of their NHS dental care.”

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