Healthier smiles for Loddon Mallee Aboriginal kids

Healthier smiles for Loddon Mallee Aboriginal kids

Children living in rural areas continue to experience higher rates of hospital admissions for tooth decay. For non-fluoridated towns across the Loddon Mallee, fluoride varnish, applied twice a year, can be highly effective in stopping tooth decay among Aboriginal children and preventing oral disease in the future.

Children in the Loddon Mallee received their first free fluoride varnish as part of a new Fluoride varnish pilot program being rolled out for Aboriginal children. The initiative was implemented in collaboration with the Bendigo and District Aboriginal Cooperative (BDAC), Rumbalara Aboriginal Cooperative and Dental School, Rural Health School La Trobe University.

Fluoride varnish applied to teeth helps prevent tooth decay in young children. Tooth decay remains one of the most prevalent diseases in Victoria. Almost half of all children have signs of tooth decay and dental conditions are the highest cause of preventable hospitalisations for Victorian children under 10. And 37 per cent of children in preschools have early signs of tooth decay which can be reversed by applying fluoride varnish.

Under the guidance of BDAC, as part of the pilot, over 22 Aboriginal children from prep – Grade 4 from St Peter’s Primary School in Bendigo received their first fluoride varnish. Students were provided with age-appropriate information about oral health, including the ‘Choose Tap’ program, a Coliban Water initiative. The children also received capes, drink water bottles and tooth packs.

Rumbalara Dental Clinic delivered oral screening and examinations using portable equipment and Dental students from Latrobe University provided the fluoride varnish applications. The Koori Support Officer played a vital role in getting consents and engaging with children and their families. The children will receive their second fluoride varnish applications later this year.

The pilot focuses on Aboriginal children aged 3-18 years and is expected to run throughout the year. The pilot, under guidance of Mallee District Aboriginal Services – Mildura, Swan Hill, and Kerang; Murray Valley Aboriginal Cooperative – Robinvale and Njernda Aboriginal Cooperation – Echuca is currently underway across schools, early learning centres, and childcare centres.

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