More culturally safe dental services available for First Nations Victorians

culturally safe dental practices
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More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners means First Nations Victorians of all ages will be able to access culturally safe fluoride varnish services, as practitioners, along with dental assistants, are now registered to provide the treatment.

The recent announcement by the Victorian government that the professionals can apply the varnish to people of all ages is a welcome relief to communities, with practitioners previously restricted to offering the service to children aged 3-17 years.

Acting chief executive of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), Jim O’Shea, said Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO) deserve recognition for their “immense dedication and for being at the forefront, delivering culturally safe health services and embracing a holistic approach to care.

“Through shared commitment and action, this initiative is empowering Aboriginal health practitioners to champion positive health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Victoria.”

The varnish is applied to the surface of the teeth to slow and stop tooth decay, as well as stop cavities, with chronic oral disease—already widespread among Victorian children—more likely in Indigenous children than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Decay is entirely preventable, and the Aboriginal health practitioner-led fluoride varnish program, launched in 2022, has been designed to combat decay in First Nations communities by training more non-dental professionals to administer the varnish.

“This change will help remove barriers that can limit good oral health for many Aboriginal adults and help boost overall health outcomes,” Victorian Minister for Health Mary-Anne Thomas said.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners make a huge contribution to the Victorian health system and the communities they serve—we’re proud to be supporting their work.”

Grants worth $650,000 were announced in 2023 for ACCHOs to participate in training on how to administer the varnish. The training was provided by Dental Health Services Victoria in partnership with RMIT University.

A pilot program for varnish applications at the Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative has also been supported by the government, providing over 500 twice-yearly fluoride varnish applications for Aboriginal children across the Loddon Mallee region.

This article was sourced from the National Indigenous Times website.

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