Health and disability
Is my dental health assessed when I first arrive in prison?
Yes. Your dental health will be assessed by the medical staff at the health centre as part of your initial health assessment. Your dental record will be kept in your health file.
Do I have the right to see a dentist?
You’ll have the right to receive dental care if you need urgent treatment or to relieve pain.
Also, if you’ve looked after your teeth before arriving in prison you’re entitled to treatment to maintain a reasonable standard of dental health – this is explained in more detail below.
If you want to see a dentist you should tell your PCO. You’ll need to put your name down on the waiting list for dental care within your unit; this waiting list is usually a lot longer than for seeing a doctor or nurse – sometimes months rather than days. If your dental problem is causing you a lot of pain, you should talk to your PCO about this.
What standard of dental care will I get in prison?
This will depend on how long you’re in prison for, and whether you’ve looked after your teeth before going to prison.
If you’re in prison for less than one year, you’ll only get minimal dental treatment, which means you may get treatment to relieve pain, including being given dressings and having teeth pulled. You may get other treatment that the dentist thinks is appropriate.
If you’re in prison for more than one year you’ll be split into one of two categories: people who show “previous dental responsibility” and people who don’t, with different levels of treatment for each category. Showing “previous dental responsibility” basically means that you’ve looked after your teeth before going to prison. The prison dentist is the sole judge of this.
If you haven’t looked after your teeth before prison, you’ll be entitled to the following free care:
- treatment to relieve pain only, such as getting dressings and having teeth pulled
- treatment of acute (serious) gum disease
- other appropriate treatment.
If you have looked after your teeth before prison (“previous dental responsibility”), you may receive the following free care:
- treatment of acute (serious) and chronic (ongoing) gum disease
- root canal surgery, but on the front teeth only
- having teeth pulled, when appropriate
- minor oral surgery, including pulling out wisdom teeth that haven’t come up properly
- a yearly check-up (if you ask for one)
- other appropriate treatment.
In both situations further treatment and care can be rearranged at your own cost.
Will I have to pay for dental care in prison?
You don’t have to pay anything for minimal dental treatment – that is, the treatment you’ll be given if you haven’t looked after your teeth before going to prison, such as pain relief, dressings, having teeth pulled, and treatment for serious gum disease.
All minimum dental treatment is free of charge and needs to be approved by a medical officer or the health centre manager.
You can have dental treatment not covered by the minimum dental service if you pay for it.
Consent for specific dental treatment
You must sign a separate form before any major dental treatment (for example, if a front or middle tooth is to be pulled out, or two or more molars are to be pulled out). If you don’t sign the form, this means you are refusing consent to the specific treatment.
The consent form specifies:
- the dental problem, the proposed treatment, who will carry out the treatment and where the treatment will be
- that you’ve been told the risks involved with the treatment and the likely outcome of the treatment
- that you’ve been told any other ways in which the condition can be treated and the possible outcome if the condition isn’t treated
- that you have asked for the treatment.
The prison dentist will ask you verbally for approval to do normal medical treatment.
Do I get my own toothbrush and toothpaste?
Yes, you’ll be given a toothbrush and toothpaste when you arrive in prison. You can also buy them from the prison canteen, along with things like soap and other toiletries.
Can I get false teeth or other dental appliances to aid daily living?
Yes. For more information about false teeth and other prostheses, see “Specific health needs and conditions”
Can I be forced to have dental X-rays or dental treatment?
Yes, you may be required to be examined, or to receive treatment, to assess whether you have an infectious disease or to prevent the spread of infection in the prison.
What happens if my teeth are knocked out while I’m in prison?
You can make a claim to ACC. The prison doctor should lodge an injury claim form with ACC on your behalf. You should check with the doctor that this has happened.