Dental hygienist offers treatments in gardens amid COVID backlog

·3 min read

Watch: Hygienist is doing treatments in gardens after seeing demand soar during the pandemic. 

A dental hygienist has been doing treatments in gardens amid a backlog of demand for her services due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fiona Perry, 56, from Comrie Perthshire, has been cycling between clients homes with her equipment on a cargo bike.

She started the initiative, called Flying Smiles, in March 2020, but was hampered by lockdown, so only began treating patients in August.

Now on dry days, she and husband James, 47, perform treatments in the back gardens of patients in rural Perthshire, to further reduce the risks of COVID transmission.

Perry says demand for the at-home treatment has soared as people hope to avoid using public transport and sitting in waiting rooms.

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Fiona Perry works on 89-year-old Jean Temple in her garden. (SWNS)
Fiona Perry works on 89-year-old Jean Temple in her garden. (SWNS)

Perry set up the business after realising many elderly patients were struggling with cleaning their teeth when they got less mobile.

The mother-of-one says she has witnessed the impact of a lack of accessible dentistry care in elderly people, including a pensioner who lived for six years with dentures she was holding in place with her tongue, hampering her ability to speak.

In a bid to help out, Perry now visits patients in care homes. 

Using two cargo bikes to transport their equipment, the couple provide private dental hygiene to clients of all ages, including to young professionals who struggle to find time to visit a dental surgery due to work demands.

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Perry cycles between houses with her equipment on a cargo bike. (SWNS)
Perry cycles between houses with her equipment on a cargo bike. (SWNS)

Perry says the backlog and "chaos" facing dental surgeries, many of which have hygienists on furlough due to concerns around having adequate ventilation, means demand for their services have skyrocketed.

"People are more open to having stuff done at home than they were before," Perry explains. 

"Because I am going to people's houses I always wear another layer of personal protective equipment.

"If it's a sunny day I do stuff in people's gardens, people love it and find it really relaxing cloud watching and hearing the sounds of the birds."

Watch: Daughter gets job in care home so she can keep seeing her dad through the pandemic.

As long as there's an extension lead for equipment Perry and her husband can do everything outside.

"NHS dentistry is rocketing after COVID, it has been really interesting for my professional development seeing what comes to you," she explains.

"I do see young professionals who are too busy to take time off work to go to the dentist.

"When it starts hurting, it is often too late."

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Fiona Perry has been doing treatments in gardens amid a massive backlog of demand due to COVID. (SWNS)
Fiona Perry has been doing treatments in gardens amid a massive backlog of demand due to COVID. (SWNS)

Following the pandemic, the business has continued to grow with the couple receiving enquiries from as far away as Essex.

Perry says farmers also appreciate the services of a mobile hygienist as it helps them avoid having to get changed out of their work clothes and drive for an hour for an appointment.

The couple are also hoping to extend their clientele by visiting boarding schools.

Having worked as a dental hygienist for more than 30 years, Perry, originally from Croydon, South London, says she has a strong belief in preventative treatment.

"I encourage my clients to help themselves in ways which fit in with their routine which isn't a good business model," she says.

"My mission is to help prevent people having complex dentistry."

Perry cycles to her next client. (SWNS)
Perry cycles to her next client. (SWNS)

Perry's business has also flourished as she is able to see people when it suits them, often in the evenings.

"The great thing about my job is not being on a conveyer belt working for someone else," she says.

Additional reporting SWNS.

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