With recent research revealing close to half of all young Tasmanians only brush their teeth once a day or less, combined with figures showing one third also rate their oral health as poor, St.LukesHealth and the Royal Flying Doctor Service are urging Tasmanians to brush up on their oral health as part of National Dental Health Week.
Dental Health Week aims to raise awareness and educate Australians about the importance of maintaining good oral health throughout their lives.
St.LukesHealth CEO Paul Lupo said poor dental health was the most common reason for preventable hospitalisations in Tasmania and studies show a direct correlation between oral health and avoidable illness.
“St.LukesHealth recent research into the health behaviors of Tasmanians aged between 25 and 34 also shows just over half (52.6 per cent) had not visited a dentist in the past year,” Mr Lupo said.
“Tasmanians in this age group also reported poorer oral health compared to this age group nationally, despite similar rates of teeth-brushing and visiting a dentist.
“National statistics reveal 65 per cent of Australians haven’t seen a dentist in the last two years, 50 per cent of Australians brush their teeth only once a day, nearly 40 per cent never floss or clean between their teeth and 73 per cent of young people aged between 14-18 years are consuming too much sugar.
“All of this paints a pretty scary picture of the nation’s oral health and its clear a lot of work still needs to be done. We believe oral health is everyone’s responsibility and that St.LukesHealth has an important role in creating a generational improvement in attitudes towards dental health.
“To assist in creating this change and increasing participation rates in preventative oral health, in 2013 St.LukesHealth introduced our Gap Free Preventative Dental program which sees the rebate we pay for preventative dental services covering the full cost of services in most instances.
“We also support and advocate for programs such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service mobile outreach oral health initiatives which aims to improve the health outcomes of people living and working in rural and remote Tasmania who are disproportionately affected by problems associated with poor oral health.”
RFDS Tasmania has two dental teams regularly visiting the North West, North and East Coast and now King and Flinders Islands in partnership with Oral Health Services Tasmania, offering free dental treatments to eligible patients.
RFDS Tasmania CEO John Kirwan said that the ability of the RFDS to address the unmet dental needs of children and adults who have difficulty getting to mainstream dental clinics has been gratefully received at schools, aged care facilities and by the wider rural community in its service area.
“In 2017/19 the RFDS provided 21,828 episodes of dental care across Australia and in that same period, during our first two years offering mobile dental services in Tasmania, our dentist, oral health therapist and two assistants saw more than 2,100 patients who each needed an average of 11 treatments on their teeth,” Mr Kirwan said
“This backs up our research which shows that the disparity in oral health outcomes between city and country is directly related to disparities in dental care availability and access. On average 63 percent of major city adults visited a dentist in a year compared to 45 per cent in remote areas.
“During Dental Health Week, RFDS Tasmania joins St.LukesHealth in promoting the message that oral health is extremely important to overall health and wellbeing and that Tasmanians in both city and country locations have options to access affordable dental treatments.”