East Grampians Health Service has set about delivering on its mission of “improving the health of our community” through implementing a variety of strategies to improve the community’s oral health.
The National Advisory Committee on Oral Health recently published “tooth decay is Victoria’s most prevalent health problem, with more than half of all children and almost all adults affected.” The impact of oral disease is not only on the individual (through pain and discomfort) and the broader impact on their general health and quality of life, but also on the community generally, through the health system and associated economic costs. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, oral conditions are the second most expensive disease group to target – just below cardiovascular disease and more expensive to treat than all cancers combined.
This year will see Ararat’s water supply fluoridated following significant lobbying by EGHS and other partners. In time we expect to see a significant reduction of tooth decay in local children, results more aligned with regions that have established water fluoridation in place.
In 2012 East Grampians Health Service reviewed the number of school children in the Ararat Local Government area visiting our publically funded dental services. With low attendance numbers and regional data indicating our levels of tooth decay in children were greater than the state average, EGHS took a proactive approach to better these outcomes.
The Happy Mouths Happy Kids initiative was developed to target primary school children and improve their oral and general health and well-being by providing regular dental check-ups and oral health education. In 2014, 167 children between Grades 3 and 5 were seen from the four Ararat primary schools (a 68% participation take up of the program). So far this year, comparing similar numbers of children on their 2nd year dental checkup, it has resulted in a 64% decrease in follow up treatment work from the previous year.
Improving accessibility to dental services was also identified as a key driver for improved outcomes, so EGHS engaged a $300,000 dental van to visit our surrounding and more remote schools and communities. Developments continue with our goal to visit every primary school in the municipality, including regular visits to Budja Budja, the local indigenous community based in Halls Gap.
EGHS Dental Clinic provides service from three full time dentists, supported by 4 full time dental assistants and two dental technicians. EGHS is also a dental teaching facility for La Trobe University students. This year EGHS hosted eight 5th year students for a rotational 19 week placement. During this period students performed a range of simple to complex dental treatments under supervision. The dental students have also conducted dental assessments in aged care within our organisation.