Oral health superheroes breaking barriers to dental care

20 March 2023
With mobile dental equipment and smiles at the ready, the CQUniversity Oral Health team are changing the world – one grin at a time.

Securing grant funding last year to purchase a mobile dental unit, Ms Libby Warlow, Clinical Director and Oral Health Lecturer, and her third-year oral health students have been undertaking an outreach program in their local community, servicing vulnerable patients within the Rockhampton region who may not otherwise be able to receive dental care.

“We started our outreach program at the Rockhampton rehabilitation service in-patient clinic providing screenings, however we previously needed to bring the patient back to clinic for treatment,” Ms Warlow said.

“With portable equipment we are now equipped to bring the full treatment to our patients.

“We continue to deliver our program at the in-patient clinic every week and we’ve engaged with other local organisations to expand our work to also visit kindergartens.

“We have also recently attended Fitzroy by Teman to service the over 55’s at the retirement village.”

Ms Warlow said it was no secret that the two major barriers to dental care were accessibility and affordability.

With people being unable to access the clinic themselves or afford the typically high cost of treatment, the CQUniversity team has set out to erase those barriers.

“With this mobile equipment we can do simple restorative treatments, cleans and full comprehensive examinations – so by bringing this treatment to the community and providing it low-fee, or fee-free for those who are vulnerable or at-risk, we’re achieving both outcomes of accessibility and affordability,” Ms Warlow said.

“We’ve also been able to pick up on other treatments that our patients may need and make those important referrals that may not have been picked up otherwise.”

Under the supervision of clinical directors and academics, including Ms Warlow and Ms Karen Smart, third-year oral health students are provided the opportunity to experience real-world oral hygiene practice through the outreach program.

“It really is great for the students to be able to do this kind of work and see that there is more than the ‘nine-to-five drill and fill’ job going forward in the future and that they can be assisting those in need,” Ms Warlow said.

This week, (on March 20) marked World Oral Health Day and Ms Warlow shared some tips that everyone can use to practice better oral health in their everyday lives.

"Limiting sugars and brushing twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste to keep enamel strong is very important.

“Another tip is to brush lightly and effectively – plaque is actually the same consistency as avocado so we don’t need to scrub so hard when we brush as this causes damage and wears away our teeth – hard toothbrushes are for horses!”

The CQUniversity Oral Health department is in the process of seeking further grants to be able to obtain X-ray equipment to increase the effectiveness of their treatments in the community.

“When we’re out on the road treating people, we’d like to be as effective as we can,” Ms Warlow said.

“As much as we can do, we’re out there trying to do.”