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SYDNEY, Australia: Though the spread of SARS-CoV-2 has been relatively well controlled in Australia, access to dental healthcare continues to be an issue in the country. In 2020, to help combat this, a charity associated with the Australian Dental Association ’s New South Wales branch (ADA NSW) stepped up and delivered more than A$300,000 (€185,600) worth of free dental treatment throughout the year.
The charity, called Filling the Gap, was originally an initiative that ran between 2006 and 2016 with the goal of reducing dental inequities in First Nations communities in Far North Queensland. Since then, it has broadened its mission to provide dental treatment to patients referred by a number of charities including the Australian Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and the Women’s Justice Network.
These patients are treated at a clinic located at ADA NSW’s offices in Sydney, where volunteer dentists, dental prosthetists, oral health therapists and other dental professionals provide treatments designed to minimise any pain or oral health issues. These treatments can include fillings, periodontal work and tooth extractions, and often include follow-up appointments.
“Many of our patients have gone years without seeing a dentist or may never have seen one at all,” said Dr Sarah Raphael, acting general manager at Filling the Gap, in a media release.
“Good oral health is key to overall well-being. That’s why helping everyone, no matter what his or her personal circumstances are, access dental treatment is so important,” she added.
According to Raphael, around 200 ADA NSW members helped Filling the Gap deliver treatment to hundreds of patients throughout the year. She noted that many of these patients had stated that “the treatment has vastly improved their quality of life”.
As Dental Tribune International highlighted earlier this year, many dental procedures are prohibitively expensive in Australia, since dental coverage is, by and large, excluded from Medicare, the country’s government-funded universal healthcare system. As a result, only 53% of the population possess health insurance that includes dental coverage, forcing many patients to bear the burden of dental expenses directly.
“Filling the Gap won’t solve the huge inequities in Australia’s dental health system,” Raphael admitted. “But it will help some of the most vulnerable patients in society access vital oral health treatment.”