Dental students fill a service hole


Main Street, Brewarrina. Conollyb at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons
Main Street, Brewarrina. Photo by Conollyb at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons
A group of Charles Sturt University dentistry students have completed the first step in a pilot program designed to improve oral health in the remote NSW community of Brewarrina.

The town of about 1 200 people is a 10 hour drive north west of Sydney and has very limited access to oral health services and no permanent public or private dentists.

The group of six final-year Bachelor of Dental Science students recently returned from a week-long placement there, assisted by the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) and the Centre for Oral Health Strategy, NSW.

CSU School of Dentistry and Health Sciences clinical director Dr Heather Cameron said the pilot program would involve placements for six groups of students in Brewarrina, working under the supervision of a dentist.

“These placements expand on the contributions our students already make to our communities during placements at the University’s dental clinics in Dubbo, Orange, Bathurst, Wagga Wagga and Albury,” she said.

“These practical placements are essential for the students to build their clinical experience, but also allow Charles Sturt University to make good on the reason it developed the dentistry program – to improve access to oral health services through rural and regional Australia.”

WNSWLHD Director of Oral Health Services Ms Jennifer Floyd said while the community in and around Brewarrina had high need for oral health services, finding dentists to provide them had been very difficult.

She said the WNSWLHD hoped the pilot program would provide two things, “service to the community and an experience for the students they wouldn’t have had elsewhere”.

Orange resident Mr James McMillan was one of the students to complete the placement and said the group had been warmly received.

“We had a good chance during the week to chat to a good portion of the community and the message we got was that the service was needed, and that it was appreciated,” he said.

“I certainly felt it was exactly the experience I needed to help with my professional development, and it was personally very satisfying to be able to provide a service that would really make a difference in the lives of the people we treated.”

Mr McMillan is currently on a four-week placement at the Charles Sturt University Dental Clinic in Wagga, and will complete placements at the University clinics in Bathurst and Dubbo before the end of the year.

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