Research project

Scottish Oral Health Improvement Prison Programme (SOHIPP)

Prisoners have been identified as one of the target groups (along with the homeless) for oral health improvement by the Scottish government as offenders' oral health is generally worse than that of the general population

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Start date

November 2020



The SOHIPP programme was created with an aim to contribute to the development, implementation and evaluation of oral health improvement activities for prison populations across Scotland. The overall aim of SOHIPP is to enable prisoners to actively care for their own oral health both inside and outside prisons.

"The Oral Health and Psychosocial Needs of Scottish Prisoners and Young Offenders" report

In order to assess the state of offenders’ oral health and their oral health concerns, DHSRU carried out an oral health and psychosocial needs survey and conducted qualitative interviews with female and male offenders in four Scottish prisons (HMP Inverness, HMP Glenochil, HMP&YOI Corton Vale and HMYOI Polmont). The results will be published by DHSRU in the form of a report which will serve as an evidence-based guide for developing and implementing oral health improvement programmes across Scottish prisons. Below is a short extract from an interview with a prisoner participating in the SOHIPP study:

'In prison today, I think it's one of best things you could ever do... in prison, you should go and see the people you need to see, especially dentists and anybody else you need to see... I was quite surprised, made me more confident with myself... going to see these people 'cos they never put me off 'cos it’s in prison. I was more happy to go and see 'em. It was me really at the end of the day. You hear some of these stories, but, half of them are just fabricated. Any experience that I’ve ever had with 'em, I’ve always been looked after; they have been good, really good actually.'

Mouth Matters

Mouth Matters is an evidence-informed oral health promotion resource developed by DHSRU. It has been compiled under expert guidance and is designed to enable health professionals, prison staff and support workers to meet the specific oral health needs of offender populations in Scotland. Its overall purpose is to raise awareness of the key oral health risk factors and provide core motivational interviewing skills that can be used to support an oral health brief intervention tailored to offenders.

Mouth Matters is analogous to Smile4life, an oral health promotion resource for work with homeless people, and was officially launched on 12th August 2014.

Michael Matheson, Minister for Public Health, said,

"Many prisoners have underlying health needs, including high levels of existing dental disease compared to the rest of the population.

Today I am launching Mouth Matters, which is a guide for the wide range of professionals who work with offenders. We hope that this guidance will enable staff working with people in Scottish prisons to be more confident in dealing with oral health matters, and help offenders to take the necessary steps towards better oral health."


The results of the research programme SOHIPP have been published in the report ‘The Oral Health and Psychosocial Needs of Scottish Prisoners and Young Offenders’. The Mouth Matters training guide has been printed and distributed across the NHS boards in Scotland for the upcoming oral health intervention training events. 



Project team

Professor Ruth Freeman


Dr Ayse Cinar

External team members


  • Giorgia Stefani, Research Coordinator (Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII)
  • Ilona Kronberga and Sanita Sile (Providus, LATVIA)
  • Roberta Bisi and Raffaella Sette (CIRVIS-SDE, University of Bologna, Italy)
  • Emilio Gregori and Marta Distaso (Synergia, Italy)
  • Andrey Momchilov (IGA-Crime Prevention Fund, Bulgaria)
  • Stephan Parmentier and Piero Sullo (International Society for Criminology, France)
  • Arthur Hartmann and Alexander Bähr (Institut für Polizei-und Sicherheitsforschung (IPoS) Germany)
  • Sara Zanni and Giorgio Pieri (Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII, Italy)
  • Viorica Marcut and Francisc Csizmarik (Generatie Tanara, Romania)


NHS logo
scottish prison service logo

Related groups

School of Dentistry

Project type

Research project