Dental help at hand for the disadvantaged

Lara Andrews, Michelle Roberts and Lawrie Middleton at the new free dental clinic.Picture: Bruce Hunt d411124
Lara Andrews, Michelle Roberts and Lawrie Middleton at the new free dental clinic.Picture: Bruce Hunt d411124

However, he will now receive free dental treatment at a new, volunteer-run dental clinic in Guildford.

The Perth Central and East Medicare Local clinic was launched last Tuesday to provide dental assistance and emergency treatment to the disadvantaged.

Patients referred by WA charities and relief agencies such as Good Samaritans and St Vincent De Paul will qualify for treatment, which is offered by dentists and nurses who volunteer their time.

Mr Middleton said he put his name down on a public health waiting list when he needed his two front teeth replaced.

After two years, he tired of waiting so looked into private dental care but found out it would cost $2000 for one denture.

‘I had no self-esteem and no confidence because my front teeth were missing,’ Mr Middleton said.

Faced with no other alternatives, he turned to St Vincent De Paul, which referred him to National Dental Foundation WA State co-ordinator Lara Andrews, who had previously organised clinical sessions for disadvantaged people in need of dental care.

‘We really needed a stationary dental clinic. We’ve always had the dentists who are willing to volunteer their time but not all of them had their own practices with the capacity to donate facilities,’ Dr Andrews said.

‘Now, the NDFWA has a permanent practice, we can complete whole treatment plans, as well as provide emergency care in one central location.’

Many of the patients who are referred to NDFWA have mental health illnesses or are in difficult circumstances, such as overcoming substance abuse or domestic violence, Dr Andrews said. ‘There is a direct link between oral health and cardiovascular disease, systemic health, premature birth and low-birth weight babies.

‘These patients need on-going oral health education, treatment and support, especially as the medications and lifestyle factors can make their dental care a lot more complex,’ she said.

Midland MLA Michelle Roberts, who attended the launch, said the clinic was a result of community service grants, donations and the hard work of dental volunteers.

‘Dental care is discriminatory, especially when people are disadvantaged and struggling to pay bills,’ she said.