Service with a smile

The Royal Flying Doctor Service Tasmania in partnership with Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation has welcomed further funding for the mobile dental care program to provide preventative and restorative services to locals. Pictured is (from left) dental care program manager Nicole Henty, RFDS Tasmania CEO John Kirwan, CHAC CEO Di Baldock, Maxine Horton who has benefited from the program, dental assistant Taneesha Torlach, dental care program administrator Yvette Buckby, dental assistant Victoria Brade and dentist Lorika Strickland. Picture: Ashleigh Force.

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Funding. Marking one year of polishing pearly whites in Circular Head are the Royal Flying Doctor Service Tasmania (RFDS) and Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation.

The mobile dental care program is provided to rural and remote communities who may not have access to dental support. 

Announced in the Federal Budget earlier this month, the outreach program has secured funding to provide this service for a further four years. 

RFDS Tasmania chief executive officer John Kirwan says the program has advocated a preventative approach to dental care through education. 

“The well known link between oral health and hygiene, and chronic conditions makes this program about more than just dental,” he says.

“In very real terms, access to dental services will result in improved physical health outcomes for the people of the Circular Head region.” 

For the past year, two mobile dental teams have provided access to a dentist and an oral health therapist both on the road and through the Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation health centre. 

“The focus is on preventative for us, the figures are pretty clear that if you have good preventative work particularly with children you stop oral decay,” Mr Kirwan says.

“In dollar terms you’re talking $180 to $200 for that treatment and often the patients are requiring five or six visits or treatments to bring them up to an acceptable standard.”

Not to mention the cost of more significant procedures, says Mr Kirwan. 

“You can see the difference between a preventative approach and an extractions approach.” 

As the chief executive officer at CHAC, Di Baldock has seen more than shining smiles on local faces. 

“People are showing more self confidence in the way they are being included now and not socially isolating themselves,” she says.

“We also have identified that people are releasing their fear of going to a dentist by coming through the door and making that first appointment.” 

The remote dental teams not only provide preventative advice but restorative dental treatment for all community members. 

“I think there are still a lot of community members out there who haven’t had any access because they might not be aware that it is open to the whole community,” Di says. 

“I feel that there are also a lot of people out there who are wanting to come through but still have that fear [and that] is where it is up to us to educate the community to release those fears.”

As the program prepares to expand its services to other remote and rural areas across the state, 

Mr Kirwan says the Royal Flying Doctor Service will take its knowledge of the Circular Head program on the road. 

“This has been a significant step up in direct service delivery since our first involvement in assisting the dentist to visit Flinders Island in 1964,” he says. 

“We’ve learned so much in the past 12 months, not just about the organisational aspects of a new services, dental set-up, staffing, infection control, equipment etcetera but mostly about how to work within a very tight knit community with a service that has had to be flexible to meet the local need.”

CONTACT

The Royal Flying Doctor Service Tasmania’s mobile dental care program is available to all community members. For more information or to make a booking, visit the Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation health centre at 165 Nelson Street on the corner of King Street or contact Yvette Buckby on 6452 1287. 

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