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Dental Check: Improving oral health access for rural kids

Access to dental health care in rural and remote Australia continues to be a major challenge.

Oral health is an important part of overall health and wellbeing at all stages of our life. Keeping a healthy smile is also an important part of social and emotional health. Poor oral health is linked to diabetes, heart disease, adverse pregnancy outcomes, stroke and respiratory conditions.

The Foundation received funding from the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation to purchase a new type of dental scanner that would reduce the time and costs associated with dentists and oral health hygienist attending to patients in rural and remote areas.

"The iTero scanner is the next step on the innovative evolution of dental diagnostics" said Julia Faulkner, Manager of Rural and Remote Health Initiatives.

"The scanner is a camera that can take thousands of photos of the interior of the mouth that can be turned into a really detailed and high quality 3D image of the teeth using artificial intelligence. Unlike X-Ray imaging, the scanner does not require a qualified nuclear technicians and can be operated by Aboriginal Health Workers and nursing staff to create a high resolution image of the patient's dental health.

"This new technology means we can send these high quality images to our partner dentists who can view the photos on their computer, prepare a diagnosis and then get all the things they need together for when they visit the town.

"In the past, dentists had to travel out to a rural town, take some x-rays, go back to the city, prepare a diagnosis and then return at a later time to provide the treatment.

"This technology saves an enormous amount of time that was previously wasted, and ensure timely access to appropriate dental care for patients. It also creates jobs in rural towns for scanner operators, contributing back to the local economy and addressing a key social determinant of health" said Ms Faulkner.

The Foundation recently completed a mobile dental clinic in Coonamble, supported by dentists from the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

The trial of new dental technology is part of the Foundation's commitment to investing in innovative new approaches to solving the challenges of rural health access.



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