On the road to healthy smiles: WSLHD dental van caring for western Sydney primary school children

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) is at the forefront of addressing oral health issues and ensuring accessible dental care for local communities.

More than 63,000 Australians are hospitalised each year due to preventable dental conditions, making it the third leading cause of acute preventable hospital admissions in the country.

WSLHD’s Primary School Mobile Dental Program (PSMDP) has been actively working to provide dental services to children who may otherwise lack access to dental care.

The program offers free school-based dental check-ups and a comprehensive preventive care package, including fluoride treatment, dental education, x-rays, cleaning, and fissure sealants.

Students requiring further dental treatment can be referred to fixed clinics at Westmead Centre for Oral Health and Mount Druitt Hospital Oral Health Clinic for ongoing care.

By offering a dental exam in the school setting, the parents don’t need to take time off work and there is minimal interruption to their schooling.

Dr Katie Metcalfe

The PSMDP team tirelessly organises and travels across WSLHD, visiting primary schools in the Auburn, Blacktown, Hills Shire, Holroyd, and Parramatta local government areas.

Equipped with two mobile dental vans and additional fleet vehicles, the team provides dental treatment and ensures the safe transportation of equipment and staff to various sites.

Dr Katie Metcalfe, a senior dentist and Head of the PSMDP unit, has witnessed the consequences of untreated dental issues in children.

“I regularly see children who have untreated infections and decay affecting multiple teeth,” she said.

“I treated a 12-year-old girl last year who had never seen a Dentist and had pain from an infected tooth.

“She said her parents were saving to take her to see a Dentist.”

WSLHD recognises the significance of this issue and is committed to reducing the burden of oral diseases among its residents.

Tooth decay, a largely preventable lifestyle-associated disease, affects a substantial portion of the population.

According to the National Adult Oral Health Survey in 2017-2018, 89% of adults in Australia experienced tooth decay (Do & Luzzi 2019).

Disturbingly, 42% of children aged 5-10 had tooth decay in their baby teeth, and 64% of older children faced tooth decay in 2014 (AIHW 2016).

However, regular dental check-ups significantly lower the decay rates compared to children who only seek dental care when there is a problem (AIHW 2022).

To promote good oral hygiene at home, WSLHD recommends the following practices:

  • Brush teeth twice a day for two minutes using fluoride toothpaste.
  • Spit after brushing and avoid rinsing to allow the fluoride to protect the teeth.
  • Maintain a balanced diet and limit consumption of sugary foods and drinks.
  • Visit the dentist every 6-12 months for regular check-ups.

WSLHD remains committed to improving dental health in its communities, ensuring that every child has access to quality dental care and promoting preventative measures. By focusing on prevention and accessibility, WSLHD strives to create a healthier and brighter future, one smile at a time.