HMP Dental Service

Prison Dental Service

Dental Officer providing dental care in prisons should be able to understand how their work fits into a wider context. They need to be aware of the needs and policies of organisations such as the prison service, the primary care trust and governmental bodies.

Prison dentists also need to be aware that security considerations affect the options available to them for the management of clinical care and that care has to be prioritised taking into account the needs and limitations of the prison environment and system.


The dental health needs of prisoners differ from those of the general population, with:
  • a high number of emergency and urgent cases
  • increased levels of neglect of oral care amongst prisoners
  • high rates of substance misuse and smoking and underlying poor nutrition
 High level of needs:

Long standing neglect in oral health

  • Routine checks and health promotion given less priority due to high needs
  • Drug misuse and smoking increase
  • Dental health needs
  • Nutrition issue


  • Turnover of prison population
  • Difficulties in providing continuity of care
  • Interrupted treatments and non-attendance
  • Shortages in dental time
  • Sessions shortened by security procedures
  • Recruitment and retention
  • Quality of dental care
  • Availability of routine treatment
  • Availability of oral health promotion


  • Outdated facilities and equipment
  • Lack of space
  • Lack of funding for health promotion and additional sessions
  • ¬†Insufficient staff for treatment and security
  • Staff training and quality assurance
Specyfic problems and difficulties:
  • Issues of the capacity to informed consent
  • Restricted access
  • Security and safety issues
  • Special treatment needs
  • Justification of physical intervention


NHS Primary Care Contracting/Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK) Guidelines for the appointment of Dentists with Special Interests (DwSIs) in Prison Dentistry