A group of Charles Sturt University final-year dentistry students have been providing oral health screenings, promotion and essential treatments to more than 50 aged care residents in Canowindra as part of an innovative new training program.
The program, created by Charles Sturt’s School of Dentistry and Health Sciences and Three Rivers University Department of Rural Health (Three Rivers UDRH), trains students in the provision of a range of dental assessments and treatments using portable dental equipment.
Residents from the Moyne Aged Care Centre in Canowindra were the first patients to take part in the program, which aims to reduce barriers to accessing oral health care for vulnerable groups by providing no-cost, on-location dental services.
Sixteen students based at the University’s Orange campus have successfully completed rotations in the program since February this year. On average five or six students completed a four-week rotation at Moyne, attending two days per week.
Director of Three Rivers UDRH at Charles Sturt, Ms Christine Howard, said the program represents an opportunity to expose dental students to vulnerable older residents in rural communities and is quite a shift from the usual placement opportunities which occur in a formal dental clinic environment.
“This initiative combines both service delivery and student learning, and provides invaluable opportunities for at-risk members of communities who may experience lack of access to dental care,” Ms Howard said.
“This innovative program has provided our students with a unique opportunity to provide patient-centred care in a community setting and has been very well received by both students and patients.” Head of School in the Charles Sturt
School of Dentistry and Health Sciences, Professor Andrew Flatau, said, “We are very pleased with the program’s outcomes so far, in spite of the temporary set-backs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we hope to expand the program to provide other vulnerable groups in different regional locations with access to oral health services.
“Access to dental care in vulnerable communities is a major issue that this innovative program seeks to address.
“The program aligns with Charles Sturt University’s strategy to build communities, and the capabilities of the regional healthcare workforce.
“Through working in more challenging environments, away from a structured clinical setting, students further develop their professional and interpersonal skills, their resilience, and the capability to treat all patients empathetically and as individuals, which are all essential attributes for successful practice.”
It is not just students reaping the benefits of the mobile dentistry placement program. Manager of Moyne Aged Care, Ms Roxane Sciberras, said the facility’s residents were also pleased with the student dental visits.
“This program has been absolutely fantastic,” Ms Sciberras said.
“The residents appreciated the time the students took with their oral health care and we look forward to continuing our association with the program in 2021.”
By participating in the program, students meet some of the clinical placement requirements in Charles Sturt’s Bachelor of Dental Science.
An evaluation of the program is under- way to explore the impact of the service delivery on all stakeholders. The evaluation will inform future models and initiatives to expand the learning and practice opportunities to help other vulnerable groups in different locations access dental therapies.