Australasian Dental Practice

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31 Jan 2015 | Australasian Dental Practice

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Kimberley Dental Team back on the road again with support from Wrigley Company Foundation and ADAF grant

Philanthropy, Charity and Volunteering

The Kimberley Dental Team (KDT) returns to remote WA with a new 4X4 Hilux Community Service vehicle delivering dental treatment to Indigenous children and their families across the Kimberley. Thanks to the assistance of a USD$6,000 Community Service Grant from Wrigley Company Foundation and the Australian Dental Association Foundation (ADAF), grant recipient Dr Jilen Patel will expand KDT's current services to the West Kimberley in 2014.


Almost a year ago to the day, the KDT were involved in a serious road accident, when their McCusker dental trailer and vehicle lost control while heading to the remote community of Warmun.

By sheer miracle, the volunteer team of four on board survived, but the vehicle and trailer were written off. Three of the team, including Dr Patel, were airlifted to Perth for specialist care. KDT co-founder Jan Owen persevered and supported the rest of the team in continuing to provide care to the other remote communities with the surviving equipment.

This year, Dr Patel and KDT co-founder Dr John Owen return to Halls Creek where they will lead teams of volunteers from Broome, expanding their dental outreach program to the West Kimberley region while maintaining review of previously visited communities in the East.

In 2014 and over a 4-week full time period, Dr Patel expects to see an estimated 550 patients and provide over 1,000 treatments, particularly to school children.

"Indigenous Australians face significant dental health disparities, including higher levels of untreated decay, more missing teeth and poorer periodontal health, this is further complicated by underlying socioeconomic disadvantages," Dr Patel explained.

"The work we do in the Kimberley is vital due to the limited availability of dental care and the lack of oral health education in these remote regions. Previous research shows that some postcodes of the Kimberley have no dentists and other regions of more than 10,000 residents are serviced by a single dentist," Dr Patel said.

While there is no official dental health data available for the Halls Creek population, KDT screening found that up to 75% of primary school children in East Kimberley Aboriginal communities had widespread decay requiring treatment urgently or within six months. Following the KDT's annual visits and implementation of the KDT Strong Teeth for Kimberley Kids tooth-brushing program, follow-up screening conducted in 2013 found this rate to have dropped down to 35% in some communities.

Dr Patel presented his abstract "Does this dental mob do eyes too? How a creative approach has improved oral health in remote communities" at the 22nd AHPA and 18th CDN Conference in Alice Springs in September 2014. His continuing research will raise much needed awareness of the state of oral health in remote communities in WA and highlight innovative approaches used by KDT over the years to overcome barriers in service delivery.

The ADAF and Wrigley Company Foundation Community Service Grants initiatives provide much needed funding to volunteer dentists, dentistry students and teams of dental professionals to help improve the oral health of some of Australia's most disadvantaged communities.

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