Healthy teeth not out of reach

The Healthy Teeth, Healthy Kids campaign is part of the Poche Indigenous Health Network - an initiative across five universities focusing on particular aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

The campaign, which was run in partnership with the University of Sydney, used a high tech dental van and a mobile lab to reach very remote communities and provide much-needed dental care.

Doctor of Clinical Dentistry (DCD) students are already qualified dentists undertaking a specialisation.

Jamie Tham, who is working towards a paediatric specialisation, spent some time in rural NSW with Poche Sydney.

"I expected to see just the minimum facilities and to have to do more hands-on clinical work," he said. "But the team was fantastic and the facilities very impressive."

Because Jamie is already a qualified, practicing dentist, he was able to take on a supervisory role for the Sydney-based student dentists also volunteering with Poche, and work on patients independently.

Joy Ya-Li Huang, also studying the DCD observed the high treatment needs of her patients.

"Home care, diet and lifestyle make a big impact on these children. It was interesting to try and problem-solve and prioritise treatment for these cases," she said.

Professor David Manton, the Elsdon Storey Chair of Child Dental Health, accompanied the students.

'I think it is imperative that our training dentists and specialists are made aware of the disparity in oral health outcomes between urban and rural populations,' he said. 'Especially Indigenous populations. And realise that they can do something towards decreasing this gap.'

Head of the Dental School, Professor Mike Morgan said the program is a win-win. "These activities provide our graduate students, our staff and our alumni with experience in providing care to groups that might otherwise not readily access oral health services. We benefit and so too do the rural communities."

Poche Melbourne Director, Professor Shaun Ewen is very keen for students, clinicians and researchers across the universities to get behind the program. 'It is great to see the fantastic work and response from the Melbourne Dental School and their growing partnership with Poche Sydney on this program."

Many Melbourne Dental School alumni already generously give up their time to help train the next generation of clinicians. Initiatives such as the Healthy Teeth program offers another opportunity for alumni, staff and students to contribute to improved access to oral and dental health.

Interested students of dentistry or oral health, and qualified dentists, are invited to contact Kim Szerdahely.


This article was originally published on 19 November 2015.