Bringing smiles to those in need

Community Outreach Dental Program

Since September 2011, the University’s Community Outreach Dental Program has been providing free dental care for some of Adelaide’s most vulnerable and marginalised people.

It has been identified that over a third of Australians do not visit the dentist because it’s too expensive or too hard. For many people who live on the streets (over 7,500 people in South Australia alone) or don’t have much money, a visit to the dentist is the last thing on their minds. However, poor oral hygiene can lead to many further health problems and often also leads to low self-esteem.

The clinic, based in the Common Ground facility in Light Square is making a huge impact on the lives of South Australia’s homeless, allowing people like Sue Watson access to free oral health facilities often for the very first time.

Sue Watson first visited the dental clinic in early 2014. She had become homeless after escaping from domestic violence and had recently had a bad experience after a trip to the dentist left her with no teeth and no self-confidence.

“I was shattered and I didn’t want to talk to people” Sue said.

But after being referred to the Community Outreach Dental Practice things began to improve. 

“They really did save my life. I was promised new teeth by Christmas and by George I got them!”

Sue regained her self-confidence and was able to start part-time work before going back to University to study for her dream job in horticulture.

The Community Outreach Dental Program doesn’t just assist those in need however, it provides an opportunity for dental and oral health students to work with volunteer dentists, hygienists and therapists and gives them the ability to provide timely and appropriate dental care to vulnerable people like Sue, and the chance to make a difference to someone’s life.

With the program relying solely on volunteer dentists giving their time free of charge to run the clinic, donations are of huge importance, says program director Margie Steffens.

“Every dollar given enables us to minimise the inequities in access to appropriate dental care – our donors, volunteers and students form part of a network of generous like-minded individuals caring for our community,” she says.

Since the inception of the program, donations have provided over 750 people with free dental care, assisting them to keep other health problems at bay and ensuring that those who cannot afford basic dental care are not disadvantaged.

This program is driven by the School of Dentistry, who are committed to ensuring that thinkers and professionals of the future have a strong sense of social justice and a dedication to improving the quality of life of marginalised and vulnerable people in the community.

You can make a gift to support the Community Outreach Dental Program.

Tagged in donor, philanthrophy, Community Outreach Dental Program