Regional students flock to dentistry

On the eve of World Oral Health Day, more regional students than ever have secured places in one of La Trobe University’s most prestigious and competitive courses – Bachelor of Dental Science (Honours).

Of 54 first-year students who commenced the course this month, more than half come from rural or regional areas – from Swan Hill to Shepparton, Mt Gambier to Colac. This is up 27 per cent from the 2020 intake.

La Trobe University Head of Dentistry and Oral Health, Associate Professor Rachel Martin, said she was thrilled to see the high calibre of regional applicants this year.

“We always hope to fill the course with students from rural and regional areas, because we know that they are more likely to fill rural workforce need after they graduate,” Associate Professor Martin said.

“Many communities in rural and regional Victoria are crying out for more dentists and oral health professionals. In some areas waiting lists to see dentists are weeks, or even months. And for public dental services, people are waiting years.

“Our graduates also play an important role in closing the gap between city and country dwellers in terms of oral health outcomes,” Associate Professor Martin said.

Bendigo-born orthodontist, and La Trobe dentistry graduate, Dr Haylea Blundell said it was rewarding to give back to the community through her work.

“I always intended to return to Bendigo after completing my specialist orthodontic training, so that I could serve Bendigo and the surrounding communities,” Dr Blundell said.

“I was fortunate to be able to complete my undergraduate studies in Bendigo, and get critical hands-on experience in regional communities while I was still a student.

“It’s so important that regional and rural students consider professions like dentistry – because, more than anyone, they understand the enormous benefits of living and working in a smaller community,” Dr Blundell said.

La Trobe is the only Victoria university to offer a dentistry program fully based at a regional campus. Students completing the five-year Bachelor of Dental Science (Honours) complete work placements across regional Victoria.

In 2021, 29 of 56 first year students enrolled in the Bachelor of Dental Science (Honours) came from rural or regional areas, compared to 13 out of 51 in the previous year.

Image: La Trobe dentistry students, Adam Black and Cristiana Deocampo

Media contact: Kate O'Connor,  k.o', 0436 189 629