Man with a van

Victorian Health Minister David Davis

While the University of Melbourne embraces teledentistry, the Victorian government has tackled the issue of dental workforce shortages in a more down-to-earth way—by sending a few dentists out to the back of beyond in a van.

At the Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne this week, Minister for Health David Davis handed over the keys to a new mobile dental care vehicle and launched the Mobile Dental Care Program.

“The Victorian Coalition Government is delivering on its $11.17 million election commitment to strengthen public dental services,” Mr Davis said.

“As part of this commitment we have delivered a new mobile dental care vehicle, boosting access to dental care in regional Victoria.”

Mr Davis said the vehicle will transport two volunteer dental professionals to rural communities each month, with the first stops being Robinvale, Banerton and Manangatang in the Northern Mallee.

“Supported by local dental assistants and students from La Trobe University, the dental team will visit local schools, events and community groups to carry out dental screenings, examinations and oral health promotion,” Mr Davis said.

“People will then be referred to existing clinics in the area where students will deliver treatment under the supervision of a qualified dental professional.

“Victoria’s Northern Mallee was selected as the first stop as it has limited access to dental services, high rates of oral diseases and little access to oral health promotion programs.”

The Mobile Dental Care Program is a partnership between the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch and Dental Health Services Victoria.

Mr Davis said mobile dental services will increase access to dental treatment for people in rural and regional areas with limited access to appropriate services.

“They will educate and inform people in rural and regional areas of the importance of taking a preventative approach to their own and their family’s oral health care,” Mr Davis said.

“We all know that oral health is vital for good health and rural Victorians have, on average, poorer oral health than people living in Melbourne.

“The Mobile Dental Care Program will reduce the reliance on emergency treatment and avoid hospital admissions by educating people about their oral health and referring people for early intervention treatment.”

Mr Davis said enhancing the oral health of all Victorians is a priority for the Victorian Coalition Government.

“The new mobile dental care vehicle is one of the Coalition Government’s four oral health election commitments,” Mr Davis said.

“We have also committed $3.3 million to attract dental clinicians to the public sector, $2 million for a dental program to promote oral hygiene in young children aged 0-3 years and $1.1 million to encourage dental clinicians to relocate to country areas.”

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  1. When I finished my apprenticeship as a dental technician in the early 80s I undertook a position on the Travelling Dental Clinics for the New South Wales Government. There were 2 railway carriages set up as a surgery and laboratory. The staff was made up of 2 dentists, 2dental assistants and 2 dental technicians. There were 2 of these carriages and another set up in a semi trailer to service areas not supplied with a railway. This system dated back to the early part of the 20th century. The set up was that each area was visited at least once every 10 years. Unfortunately these clinics were made redundant and scrapped in favor of fixed clinics in regional hospitals. Protests were made to this policy the biggest objection was the matter of staffing.
    We were assured by the government that would not be a problem, clinics were set up and eventually closed down due to staffing problems. Nobody would registar for treatment as no dentist was in the clinic. The government saw the lack of registration as a lack of demand for treatment and closed the clinics down.
    It is good to see the Vic gov having a go as I know from experience that Travelling Dental Clinics do work and are very much appreciated by country folk.


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