Graphic: Federation Board

Hobart hosts 100th meeting of the Flying Doctor National Board

Date published

18 Sep 2015

The 100th meeting of the Board of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (RFDS) being held in Hobart today will consider action in response to evidence that the main cause of potentially preventable hospital admissions for Tasmanians is poor dental care.

RFDS Tasmania is one of six Sections that have one representative on the Federation Board. RFDS Tasmania President, Mr Malcolm White welcomed the opportunity that the board meeting scheduled in Hobart will include a presentation on Tasmanian activities and plans. He was particularly pleased to endorse the focus on dental care, as this was a Tasmanian Board priority.

Australian Hospital Statistics data for the 2013/14 financial year shows dental conditions were the main cause of potentially preventable hospital admissions in Tasmania, followed by chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and iron deficiency anaemia. (See data table provided below).

The findings follow the release of RFDS research this week that found childhood cavities are fifty-five percent higher for country children than children in major cities and the number of filled teeth in country children is double that of city children.

The RFDS research, Filling the gap: disparities in oral health access and outcomes between major cities and remote and rural Australia, released this week reveals:

> Cavities are half (55%) more likely for country children than children in major cities, and the number of filled teeth can be more than double (117%);

> A quarter (23%) of adults in major cities have untreated tooth decay, but this rises to one third (37%) of country residents;

> More than half (57%) of Indigenous Australians have one or more teeth affected by decay;

> Six in ten (63%) major city adults visited a dentist in a year, compared to little more than four in ten (45%) visiting a dentist in country areas;

> Cities have three times as many working dentists than country areas, with 72 dentists for every 100,000 people in cities compared to only 22 for every 100,000 people in the country.

Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia CEO, Martin Laverty said, "Tooth decay is entirely preventable, and it's making people sick. The RFDS research shows oral disease, particularly when left untreated, is associated with cardiovascular diseases, respiratory illnesses, and kidney disease," Mr Laverty said.

RFDS dental outreach programs treated 11,519 country residents around different parts of Australia in the 2013/14 financial year. The RFDS dental outreach program uses a mixture of paid, voluntary and student dental health professionals who travel by air or road to country areas that do not have dental services.

RFDS Tasmania CEO John Kirwan said, "The national RFDS dental outreach program may be a solution to provide dental access and treatment across parts of Tasmania. For communities that have difficulty accessing existing dental services, RFDS supported services that provide outreach to these communities could reduce oral health disparities," Mr Kirwan said.

The RFDS research report, Filling the gap: disparities in oral health access and outcomes between major cities and remote and rural Australia, is available here.

Separations for selected potentially preventable hospitalisations in Tasmania, 2013-14

Learn more about our dental outreach programs