Adelaide Airport backs outback oral health care

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Adelaide Airport has joined forces with the Royal Flying Doctor Service as a program partner to deliver the RFDS Remote Oral Health Care Program for the next three years
Adelaide Airport has joined forces with the Royal Flying Doctor Service as a program partner to deliver the RFDS Remote Oral Health Care Program for the next three years

Adelaide Airport has joined forces with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) as a program partner to deliver the RFDS Remote Oral Health Care Program for the next three years.

The extension of the RFDS program comes after a highly successful two-year pilot and ensures more adults and children living in remote SA communities will get regular visits from senior dental students as well as access to preventative treatments and oral health education.

The RFDS will deliver the program in collaboration with the University of Adelaide’s School of Dentistry to remote communities including Marla/Mintabie, the Gawler Ranges and the Birdsville Track – places where access to a dentist can be up to a day’s drive away.

Evaluation of our pilot program found that children living in remote SA are almost twice as likely to have a cavity, missing, or filled teeth compared to their city counterparts. In one community alone:

  • 68 per cent of all school-age children examined had at least one cavity; and
  • 77 per cent of the adult population had at least one cavity.

Simple treatments, particularly for children, including the application of fluoride gel or a fissure sealant, meant few patients required follow-up treatment on their subsequent six-monthly visit to the clinic and no children presented with new cavities.

Dr John Setchell of the Royal Flying Doctor Service
Dr John Setchell of the Royal Flying Doctor Service

RFDS Central Operations General Manager of Health Services, Dr John Setchell, says the continuation of the RFDS Remote Oral Health Care Program means RFDS will be able to address serious shortcomings in more communities.

“The pilot program uncovered serious problems and even worse potential health issues created by a lack of regular oral care services, with as many as two-in-three school-age children and three quarters of adults having at least one cavity,” Dr Setchell said.

“Pleasingly, a significant proportion of those who received a dental examination and treatment during their first visit showed significant improvements in oral health at subsequent visits.”

Final year dentistry and dental hygiene students based at the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Oral Health in Whyalla, conduct under supervision a number of treatments during the two-day fly-in clinics including:

  • Atraumatic restorative therapy (ART) which involves treatment of tooth decay without anaesthetic or drills;
  • Application of a fissure sealant and/or fluoride gel treatment to prevent tooth decay; and
  • Tooth extractions where necessary.

Adelaide Airport Managing Director, Mark Young, said our association with RFDS was considered an important one within the Airport’s community.

“Our position as the major gateway to South Australia provides us with an opportunity to partner with local community initiatives and worthwhile causes as part of our Community Investment Program. We consider our partnership with the RFDS a significant investment that enhances community benefit and complements the Airport’s vision and values,” Mr Young said.

“We have an excellent longstanding relationship with the RFDS. They are a vital part of the fabric of Adelaide Airport and make an incredible contribution to the State. We look forward to the next phase in this important association.”

Following the inaugural clinic, there was a 66 per cent increase in the number of patients in the second round of visits in Marla, Marree and Oodnadatta, the original sites for the pilot program.

Prior to the program, there was no access to dental services in these communities. In 2013/14 there were 96 patients including 38 children who attended the clinics.

 

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