Giving Outback Communities a Reason to Smile

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Doctor Garret Robles’ goal is to bridge the gap in oral health services in Outback Queensland, through his Project Outback Dental. by Emily Joy Tierney

Doctor Robles is aiming to launch his privately owned dental van in September; his goal is to service the remote communities of Hughenden, Richmond and Winton first.

Oral disease continues to be one of the most wide spread but preventable diseases in Australia. Poor access to a dentist is an issue that is overdue to be addressed in rural communities. Water fluoridation is the most effective and reliable way of exposing a community to fluoride, which has the capacity to prevent cavities, but is often lacking in rural communities due to the expense. Everyday at least three people are being diagnosed with oral cancer in Australia, early detection is the key to survival and regular dental check-ups will help screen against it.

The Australian Department of Health has relocation and infrastructure grants of up to $370, 000 for General Dentists to move to the Outback but they still struggle to find dentists who are willing. This is due to the dentist needing to connect with a small community and be willing to sacrifice a life of convenience on the coast. Christer Lindee a rural dentist in Innisfail said, “There is certainly a need for dentists in the outback but most towns are probably too small for a full time dentist. Since the distances between towns can be quite large, the attraction may not be there for a lot of dentists.”

The Royal Flying Doctor launched their TOOTH program in March 2012. The Royal Flying Doctor has partnered with Investec and Gonski Foundation to provide remote communities in New South Wales with vital dental services.

Sherilee Honnery The Community Service Manager of the Shire of Flinders said, “One of the main benefits (of Project Outback Dental) includes decreased travel time needed for dental visits to Townsville or Charters Towers.”

Tom Newton from the Aitkenvale Business Lions Club said “When we did some research into what was happening to the people out west, and the high suicide rate, the Banks giving them a bad deal. When you hear stories like that you just want to get in and help and as an individual you can’t do much but when you have an organisation like Lions backing you great things can be achieved and that is why Lions is supporting Dr Garret Robles”.

Amanda Wilson from the Ross Valley Lions Club said, “The farmers and their families who are struggling will have one less thing to worry about and it’s going to be great for farmers and more so their kids to be able to have check ups when needed.”

Many rural families will be now able to use The Child Dental Benefits Schedule. The Medicare funded dental care provides $1, 000 worth of dental care every two years for children form two to seventeen years old. This will help set children up for life with good oral hygiene habits.