Breaking down barriers to childhood dental care

Consistent check-ups and oral health habits are crucial for kids. Picture: UNSPLASH

By Callum Ludwig

Many kids dread a visit to the dentist and oral health and hygiene can often be neglected when kids express their distaste for dentistry.

Inspiro Community Health’s dental team are helping break down the barriers to dental care, offering free dental screenings for kids at child care centres, kindergartens, primary schools and community houses throughout the Outer East.

Inspiro CEO Sue Sestan said Inspiro has a long history in providing outreach screenings.

“Kids get a sense in a fun way of what oral hygiene and oral health is about, but then they get to experience what we call a good exam experience so that children can feel confident that when they go to the dentist,” she said.

“There’s not the fear factor which a lot of people say in their 50s and 60s experienced as kids, and I think it’s incredibly important because it sets them up for good health in the future.”

All children aged 12 years and under can access free or low-fee dental screenings through Inspiro, while they also have a strong connection to Dental Health Services Victoria’s ‘Smiles 4 Miles’ program, which helps to educate and promote the benefits of good oral health alongside screening services, creating a positive dental health experience.

Ms Sestan said they are really proud of the program and the skill sets Inspiro has.

“We’ve got some really good staff that manage children exceptionally well, I’m really proud of their ability in that space because you can imagine lousy experiences set kids up for a really bad interaction with oral health and dental professionals,” she said.

“You need your teeth to feel confident it affects mental health and self-esteem, you need your teeth to eat well and as an adult, as we age, if you haven’t got your own teeth, general health suffers,”

“There’s also a strong connection between good oral health and cardiac and diabetic health as well.”

Inspiro’s dental team can provide emergency care, check-ups, cleaning and preventative care, general care, dentures, advice for healthy teeth and referrals to specialist care.

Ms Sestan said there’s something to be learnt from what they call ‘intentional outreach’.

“Intentional outreach is making a decision to go out to these smaller centres or towns so that they feel like they’re still connected to a system,” she said.

“The Yarra Ranges is geographically challenged, we know that the distances between small towns and our larger urban centres cause problems, especially if we haven’t got transport,”

“It is important to go to an area that is isolated from other parts of the Yarra Ranges and make sure that they know that we haven’t forgotten them and that they are an integral part of the region.”

The Woori Community House organised to welcome the Inspiro Dental team on Tuesday 6 and Wednesday 7 February, helping make a dental check-up more accessible for local families.

The nearest dental services to Woori Yallock are in Seville and Yarra Junction and would incur a cost for a check-up.

Ms Sestan the initial check-ups are just a screening rather than a physical exam.

“You can actually see a fair bit just by looking in the child’s mouth and asking them to give you an understanding of what their oral hygiene routine is,” she said.

“It’s pretty evident if something’s not right so it just gives parents or families reassurance that there’s nothing significantly wrong or if there is, that they can contact us.”

Pensioner, concession and health care card holders and their dependants, children and young people in out-of-home care up to 18 years of age, people in youth justice custodial care, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and refugees and asylum seekers can also all access free or low-fee dental care from Inspiro.