Smile Squad recognised as school dental innovator

smile squad school dental program

The Smile Squad school dental program delivered by Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV) has won the Innovation Award at the prestigious Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association’s inaugural Value-Based Health Care Awards.

The award was presented at the 2021 Value-Based Health Care Conference on Friday 28 May.

The award, sponsored by Queensland Health, recognises projects in their start-up or early phases of development that are significantly innovative.

“School dental services have existed for a number of years, and we’re excited that Smile Squad has seen the return of dental vans to our schools,” DHSV chief operating officer Mark Sullivan said.

“We have learnt a great deal from previous programs and those learnings have armed us with the knowledge and experience needed to deliver a truly innovative next generation service.”

School dental program director Melanie van Altena added: “The Smile Squad value proposition is simple—to increase access to dental services for public school students, reduce preventable hospitalisations due to dental conditions and improve student’s oral health, all while saving families time and money.

“When the program reaches full rollout by the end of 2023, we will reach approximately 650,000 students attending public primary, secondary and special schools at more than 1500 locations across Victoria each year.”

In the 2019-20 state budget, the Victorian Government announced $321.9 million in funding over four years for the Smile Squad school dental program. Smile Squad will provide free access to dental care for all Victorian public primary and secondary school students. 

Dental vans started visiting a limited number of schools in Term 3 2019 as part of a ‘proof of concept’, and the program progressed to statewide rollout in Term 1 2021 following a lengthy pause due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Smile Squad program has been planned and implemented in line with the DHSV value-based healthcare framework, and is a partnership between DHSV, the Department of Health, Department of Education and Training, community dental agencies and public schools. 

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