Students cut teeth on remote work placement

Thursday 4 Aug 2016

Extremely rewarding is how many people aspire to describe their careers.

But a group of Charles Sturt University (CSU) dental science students have already realised such satisfaction in the final year of their degree.

Ms Erin Currier, Ms Alagu Annamalai, Ms Cathleen Dong and Ms Anna-Lise Phoebe, from Canberra, Sydney and the Blue Mountains, are in the fifth year of the Bachelor of Dental Science degree through the School of Dentistry and Health Sciences at CSU in Orange.

They've completed a week-long work placement providing free dental care and treatment in the north-western NSW town of Brewarrina.

Faced with a dearth of oral health and dental services, the Brewarrina Shire Council established the Rural and Remote Dental Project in 2008 with the then Greater Western Area Health Service and Griffith University. CSU joined the project in 2014.

Every four to six weeks, a new group of final year dental science students takes the six-hour trip north from CSU in Orange to Brewarrina for a work placement providing dental treatment for the community.

Ms Currier said, "While on placement at Brewarrina in July, we treated members of the local community and patients from surrounding properties who travel hundreds of kilometres for dental treatment.

"We did teeth extractions, denture work and restorative treatment to people of all ages including school children.  

"Working on placement out at Brewarrina provided a real insight into working in a rural and remote community and highlighted the limited access to health care in these communities".

Director of CSU's Oral Health and Dental Clinics Dr Heather Cameron agrees.

"Charles Sturt University was keen to get involved in the project due to the exposure it gives our students in the treatment of patients in a remote area, like Brewarrina," said Dr Cameron.

"With the closest private dentist 200 kilometres away in Nyngan, there's little dental support available, so what the students do needs to work and help the patients.

"Students are exposed to some very broken down mouths due to limited access to local oral health and dental services. The work they do during placement makes a real difference to people's lives."

In 2015, the CSU students treated 335 patients during 733 appointments over nine weeks.

The services offered by the students - under the supervision of a qualified dentist - received a boost this year when four new dental chairs and associated equipment valued at more than $145 000 was installed in the Shire Clinic.

The new equipment came from a partnership between NSW Centre for Oral Health Strategy and the Western NSW Local Health District.

Ms Phoebe said, "Having the new dental chairs allowed us to provide more effective and efficient dental treatment, assisting us to provide high quality care to all patients.

"We all thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to go and work in such a great community and it was extremely rewarding to be able to provide dental care to those in need".

The first week of August is Dental Health Week, an initiative of the Australian Dental Association.


Media contact: Fiona Halloran and Emily Malone , (02) 6933 2207

Media Note:

CSU offers its Bachelor of Dental Science through the School of Dentistry and Health Sciences at CSU in Orange.

A three year Bachelor of Oral Health (Therapy and Hygiene) is offered at CSU in Wagga Wagga.

CSU also has Oral Health and Dental Clinics in Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst, Dubbo, Orange and Wagga Wagga. To make an appointment, call 1300 278 642.