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February 2020

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LCHS oral health educators Cecilia Janssen, Sabrina Shaw, Katia De Silva and Roxley Doorty.

Oral health educators a Latrobe first

Latrobe Community Health Service has trained five dental assistants to provide oral health education across the valley.

The move aims to reduce waiting lists and buck the ongoing cycle of dental disease.

The introduction of oral health educators is a first for the Latrobe Valley and has enabled LCHS to focus on prevention instead of wholly intervention, said LCHS acting dental services manager Anita Pither.

Now, when people first come in for dental care, they attend a free group information session about LCHS’ dental services.

They receive advice on how to prevent dental disease, such as decay.

They then attend a one-on-one session with an oral health educator, who shows clients how they can improve their oral hygiene and maintain healthy teeth at home.

Then, they see an oral health or dental therapist for a comprehensive check-up and clean before they attend an appointment with a dentist to finish their required treatment.

‘Typically, dental has offered a much more one-dimensional service – we just fixed teeth,’ Ms Pither said.

‘Now, we’re able to offer a much more comprehensive service and spend the time getting to the cause of the problems and coaching clients to improve their oral health outcomes.

‘Through our oral health educators, we also now regularly refer clients to counselling, podiatry, diabetes educators and dietitians.

‘We are changing at-home practices to ensure oral and general health is maintained and existing problems don’t multiply or escalate.’

LCHS has based its service on Bendigo Health’s model of care, which has seen its wait list reduce from 24 months to five months in just two years.

‘We look forward to evaluating the effectiveness of our model in another 12 months’ time, when we hope to see fewer complex cases as a result of our preventative oral health education,’ Ms Pither said.

LCHS is contracted by Dental Health Services Victoria to provide oral health services.