This week, 1-7 August, is Dental Health Week which aims to educate Australians about the importance of maintaining good oral health in every stage of their lives.
It is equally important that rural and remote Australians are educated with this message but trying to find a dentist in rural and remote Australia is hard. If we were given to puns, we could say, they're as 'scarce as hens' teeth’.
Recent data shows that there are 61 dentists for each 100,000 people living in major cities in Australia. In rural Australia it is only 37 per 100,000 people and in remote Australia there are only 24 dentists per 100,000 people. Kim Webber, CEO of the National Rural Health Alliance said that “there are simply not enough dentists in rural and remote Australia where they are needed”.
We know that 9% of potentially preventable hospitalisations in Australia are due to dental conditions. The highest numbers of such hospitalisations are in young children. The states with the highest numbers of potentially preventable hospitalisations are Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.
The recent Grattan Institute Report ‘Perils of Place’, identified ‘hotspots’ where potentially preventable hospitalisations in Queensland and Victoria were very high. Among the many locations it identified that are in need of urgent dental intervention are Mildura, Horsham and Colac in Victoria and Mount Isa, Aurukun, and Palm Island in Queensland.
“For young people, having healthy teeth is fundamental to their long term health and wellbeing. For their sake we have to find more innovative ways to ensure rural and remote Australians can benefit from good dental health, whether that be increasing visiting services or building the dental workforce in rural and remote communities.” said Dr Webber.