Graphic: pub dental clinic

No ordinary bush Dental Clinic

Date published

17 Aug 2015

Pastoralists along the Birdsville Track were jumping for joy over 30 millimetres of drought-breaking rains in the middle of June but their good fortune left four University of Adelaide dental students and their dentist supervisor stranded in the South Australian outback for five days.
The overdue rain turned the scheduled two-day Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) dental clinic at Mungerannie on the Birdsville Track turned into something of an adventure for the intrepid RFDS Remote Oral Health Care Program.

Graphic: pub dental clinic

Every six months RFDS Central Operations in conjunction with the University of Adelaide Dental School conducts its 'fly-in' dental clinics at four locations in outback South Australia – Mungerannie, Kingoonya, Mintabie and Marla.
The fifth-year students carry out basic dental examinations, preventative oral health and oral hygiene instruction for adults and children.
They even conduct tooth extractions where it's a straight-forward case.
Funded by Adelaide Airport Limited (AAL), the program delivers around 120 consultations each year for people who would otherwise be forced to take several days off work to travel to see a dentist in town hundreds of kilometres away.
During the first year of the program, an alarming 68 per cent of school-age children examined had at least one cavity, while the figure for adults was even higher at 77 per cent.

Following preventative treatment with fluoride application and fissure sealant, the majority of these children have re-presented six months later with no new cavities. The students began their clinic on a Friday morning in the makeshift setting of the Mungerannie Hotel dining room where they managed to see 26 patients over the two days, completing temporary fillings, plaque removal and preventative dental work. They conduct their examinations without dental chairs or drills and use the dental instruments they carry with them. As well as providing much-needed care to remote communities, the clinics also provide the fifth-year dental students with valuable, practical experience and encourage the development of remote dentists of the future. After five days and with the airstrip still closed due to the rain, the Birdsville Track finally reopened allowing the students to hitch a lift back to town by road in time to prepare for their final exams. What they lost in exam preparation time they gained with a story of their very own outback adventure!