La Trobe University calls on the Australian Government to implement the recommendations in the final report of the Senate Select Committee into the Provision of and Access to Dental Services.
Professor Jane Mills, Dean, La Trobe Rural Health School said the report is a positive step towards addressing the oral health crisis facing rural and regional communities.
“We applaud the committee for taking a comprehensive and long-term view to correcting this neglected issue,” Professor Mills said.
“We now urge the Government to act quickly to make oral health care more accessible, affordable and sustainable for the 30 per cent of Australians who live outside our cities.”
Professor Mills, who appeared before the committee in Launceston in August 2023, was pleased to see some of the school’s proposals reflected in the report, including
- Recommendation 4, which supports the integration of oral health into primary health care
- Recommendation 13, which supports the implementation of a Seniors Dental Benefits Scheme
- Recommendation 23, which supports the expansion of the Child Dental Benefits Scheme, starting with remote and vulnerable children
- Recommendation 26, which supports universities in regional areas to expand current courses.
Professor Mills said fixing the funding arrangements for rural clinical placements was a practical way to support regional universities to meet workforce shortages.
“We’re calling for regional students to be eligible for federal Dental Training Expanding Rural Placements funding, which counter-intuitively, only funds metro students to do rural placements.’
“We know that rural students who stay rural for their placements are more likely to build their careers in regional areas where access issues are most acute.”
Professor Mills also called for an increased focus on water fluoridation in rural areas.
“We welcome the report’s recommendations to expand access to fluoride varnishes and salts, but urge all levels of government to not lose sight of the National Oral Health Plan recommendation to secure water fluoridation in rural communities with populations over 1000.”
“In Victoria alone, more than 60 communities with populations over 1000 don’t have fluoride in the water. In many of these areas, the levels of preventable hospitalisation for dental conditions, particularly among children, are nothing short of shocking.”
La Trobe Rural Health School welcomes the report’s focus on prevention, and is in unique position to develop health promotion programs in regional Victoria and support efforts to build the capability of the non-dental workforce to provide oral health assessments and referrals.
“By offering 15 health disciplines, we prepare our students, whether in nursing, occupational therapy or dentistry, to work together in multi-disciplinary teams and take a holistic view of a persons’ health and oral health,” Professor Mills said.