This was published in the NT Sun on September 4 2018.



Poor dental attitudes are leading to significant medical problems in the NT. Last week, RDH senior health practitioner and oral surgeon Dr Mahiban Thomas stated that neglect of oral health was leading to deep seated emergency surgical needs. (ABC Radio News 22/8/2018)j

Dr Thomas’ statement could be taken to infer that little in the way of dental education and support is available for Territorians, especially children and young people. This is not the case.

One of the outstanding services providing for the well-being of children in our schools is that of dental health care. Those who are under 18 and still at school receive free dental health services in the NT. (Source: NT Government Website, ‘Dental Services’, updated August 18, 2018)

Dental care is provided as part of the student support program in urban schools. Facilities are set up to provide for regular dental checks. Children can visit any school based dental clinic from birth until they have completed year six. From year seven onward, they can attend community dental clinics and receive cost free treatment.

Parents of students attending schools without a dental clinic, can make appointments for their children at schools with these facilities. There are three school dental clinics in Alice Springs and one in Tennant Creek. Humpty Doo Primary School has a clinic. Palmerston is served by school clinics at Bakewell, Driver and Moulden Primary Schools.

There are eight school dental clinics in Darwin. They are located at Anula, Karama, Manunda Terrace, Nightcliffe, Parap, Stuart Park, Wagaman and Wanguri Primary Schools.

Community Dental Clinics are permanently located in Alice Springs, Katherine, Gove, Humpty Doo, Palmerston and Darwin. Tennant Creek is supported by a visiting service.

The needs of children in remote communities are not neglected. Visiting and mobile dental services are offered at 69 communities throughout the NT. Dental checks, education and basic corrective work is provided through all these programs.

Dental care for children is a primary responsibility of parents. All parents should be responsible for the dental care of their children.
School dental services provide excellent education for children, because they are taught about the necessity for care and maintenance of their teeth. These services are supportive of children and their parents.

Doctor Thomas’ revelation is disturbing news. It implies that the quality care offered for children in our schools is not accepted by parents. It also suggests that the care offered for children is disregarded by those growing into adulthood. The service offered by schools and dental clinics needs to be fully utilised.

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