By Julian Bajkowski
Victorian councils have been urged to urgently sink their teeth into improving the dental health of their communities after the state’s lead oral health agency revealed it will soon be handing out individual profiles for local government areas.
Dental Health Services Victoria has said it will start distributing individual oral health profiles to 79 councils across the state from mid-July as part of a push to get local governments more involved in helping people take better care of their teeth.
The drive to get councils more proactively involved in oral health at a grass roots community level comes as the health sector tries to promote the kinds of behaviours that reduce tooth decay and gum disease that have been proven to lead to other illnesses.
Dental Health Services Victoria and the Department of Health have also issued a guide to local governments on how to improve oral health and prevent oral disease in the community.
Senior Project Officer at Dental Health Services Victoria, Dr Anil Raichur said the new profiles for councils provided an opportunity to understand health-related behaviours that influenced oral health in their communities.
“We included behaviours that have an impact on oral health such as tobacco use, intake of fruit and vegetables, soft drink consumption, tooth brushing frequency and breastfeeding,” Dr Raichur said.
A key avenue for the dentists to promote better oral health awareness are childcare and community facilities that are a more accessible and friendly way to get the message across than sitting in a dentist’s chair.
The innovative council profiles in Victoria are a stark contrast to the very public battle now raging in Queensland where moves to let councils decide whether or not to fluoridate town water supplies have been slammed by dentists as stupid and ill-informed.
“The Queensland and now other State Governments’ decision to permit ill-informed local councils to choose to stop fluoridation of water supplies represent a failure to protect the public’s oral health. These local councils seem to be responding to fringe groups’ falsely based scare mongering and are not considering the scientifically well-established benefits of fluoridation,” Australian Dental Association Federal President Dr Karin Alexander said in February.
Charities are also pushing for dental reforms.
The Brotherhood of Saint Lawrence have warned that the direct and indirect costs to the economy of poor dental health sit between $1.3 billion and $2 billion annually.
The Brotherhood estimates that hospital admissions from dental conditions “are the largest category of preventable acute hospital admissions, costing the health system $223 million each year.”
“At least one million work days and at least 600,000 school days are lost each year because of poor dental health costing the economy at least $660 million in lost productivity,” The Brotherhood said in its landmark report: End the Decay: The cost of poor dental health and what should be done about it.
The chief executive CEO of Dental Health Services Victoria, Dr Deborah Cole, said the oral health profiles for would support councils preparing for their Municipal Health and Wellbeing Plans.
“These profiles contain vital information that will assist councils in oral health promotion efforts in their communities,” Dr Cole said.
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