The three year project brings together community members and health professionals to discuss oral health and look at ways to better improve treatments and outcomes for people in rural Victoria and Queensland.
Dr Virginia Dickson-Swift from La Trobe's Rural Health School says there's been two rounds of community meetings in each of the six locations – which include Swan Hill, Gannawarra and Kyabram and the outcomes have been concerning.
'Many in these communities were unaware of the links between oral health and things like mental health, heart disease and diabetes.
'The rates of hospital admissions for dental conditions – especially in children – is much higher than it should be in all these rural areas and for many of the people with whom we have spoken, this has come as a shock, because poor oral health is preventable.'
A big part of the Engaging Rural Communities in Oral Health project, is to raise awareness that good dental health is intrinsic to overall good health.
Dr Dickson-Swift says Dental Health Week is another opportunity to get the word out.
'At the Rural Health School, our oral health practitioners and researchers want communities to be thinking about decay prevention and what might be done at a community level to encourage good oral health.
'Things like working with maternal and child health services, schools and sporting clubs to encourage and educate children and their parents in looking after their teeth.'
Getting the word out about the new Child Dental Benefits Scheme and connecting practitioners within the towns who work with disadvantaged groups to work together are also key messages, Dr Dickson Swift said.
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