Adelaidean - News from the University of Adelaide The University of Adelaide Australia
June 2011 Issue
Current issue (PDF) | Archive | Editorial Contact

Finding the holes in dental care


The University of Adelaide's dental researchers have been awarded $1.3 million to find out why Australian children have such poor oral health, despite billions being spent on this area in the past decade.

Professor John Spencer from the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health (ARCPOH) will lead a national study over the next four years to investigate why the system is failing Australia's children.

"Despite a substantial level of resources - approximately $1 billion dollars annually - being directed to dental services for children in Australia in the last decade, their oral health is still a major public health problem," Professor Spencer said.

"After several decades of improvement, child oral health has worsened and inequalities have widened."

Latest statistics show that dental restorations and extractions are the most common reason for hospital admissions among Australian children under 14 years of age.

In 2006 nearly 27,000 children - 8114 of whom were pre-schoolers - were admitted to hospital for dental work.

"In this study we will be looking at how dental services for our children are organised and delivered, comparing the use of private dentists and school dental services and the outcomes for child oral health," Professor Spencer said.

"Public programs like the school dental services are not reaching as many children, yet private dental services may be out of the financial reach of many families."

The nationwide study will also document current levels of oral health and its variation across the child population.

"The challenge is to identify and eliminate barriers to dental health services in Australia, improving service delivery, reducing risks and promoting healthy diets," Professor Spencer said.

Thanks to funding from an NHMRC Partnership Project Grant, his team from ARCPOH at the University of Adelaide will partner with all eight State and Territory public dental authorities in the research project. The partners are committing a further $1.7 million to the national study, making the total funding for the study $3 million.

A representative sample of approximately 32,000 children aged 5-14 years old will be drawn from a mixture of public and private schools across Australia.

Story by Candy Gibson

Teaching awards for dental team

Dentistry lecturers Sophie Karanicolas and Catherine Snelling were presented with the Vice-Chancellor and President's Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Faculty of Health Sciences graduation ceremony in April.

The two also took out the Team Teaching Award for the Stephen Cole the Elder Prize for Excellence in Teaching. It is the first time a team has taken out the Vice-Chancellor's teaching prize.

The two lecturers developed the curriculum for the new Bachelor of Oral Health program, forging a successful teaching partnership.

Volunteers needed to boost student skills

The School of Dentistry is seeking volunteers to help its students improve their communication skills in a clinical environment.
Volunteers will be trained to role-play as real patients, giving second and third-year students the skills to promote trust, put people at ease, and explain complicated dental procedures.

During role-plays volunteers will not receive any dental treatment, examination, or advice.

Project leaders Dr Vicki Skinner and Associate Professor Tracey Winning said good communication skills were essential for dentists.

"Communication is at the core of dentistry. A clear and supportive relationship between a patient and their dentist leads to more accurate diagnosis and treatment and better outcomes for oral care," Dr Skinner said.

Role-plays will involve specific scenarios that students may experience as students or graduates, including interacting with anxious or upset patients, patients with special needs, and cross-cultural communication.

The volunteer program is being developed initially for the Bachelor of Dental Surgery program and will be adapted for the Bachelor of Oral Health program. It may then be used in other University programs where communication with clients is crucial.

Volunteers will be required to attend two to four sessions over a period of a few months and will be reimbursed for their travel expenses.

People of all ages (above 18) and backgrounds are encouraged to volunteer, including University staff and students, those with a non-English speaking background as well as people with disabilities.

For more information, contact Karen Squires from the School of Dentistry on 08 8303 5968 or go to:

Dental service for homeless

Adelaide's homeless and low-income residents will have improved access to free dental care thanks to a new initiative involving the University of Adelaide's School of Dentistry and the SA Dental Service.

A Commonwealth grant has enabled the Dental School to build a dental clinic in Light Square to service socially disadvantaged people living in the Common Ground accommodation complex.

The clinic, to open in late July, will be operated by University staff and students from the Dental and Medical Schools, volunteer dentists and medical practitioners with a focus on oral health and linking to improved general health outcomes.

The Dean of the Dental School, Professor Johann de Vries, said the new clinic had multiple benefits, facilitating students in the dentistry, oral health and medical programs to gain valuable practical experience.

Bookmark and Share

Photo by iStock

Photo by iStock
Full Image (91.56K)

Sophie Karanicolas (left) and Catherine Snelling (right) photographed with the Dean of the School of Dentistry, Professor Johann de Vries.

Sophie Karanicolas (left) and Catherine Snelling (right) photographed with the Dean of the School of Dentistry, Professor Johann de Vries.
Full Image (133.66K)

Full Image (67.17K)

Dental clinic in Light Square

Dental clinic in Light Square
Full Image (130.61K)

Media Contact:

Media Office
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814

For more news on the research and educational achievements of the University & our alumni read the University's bi-annual magazine, Lumen.