Recently we asked around to see what the big issues are in dentistry, and also to see how practitioners are differentiating themselves. Not surprisingly, both Dr Stephen Allsopp from Bannockburn in Victoria and Dr William Huynh from Be Well Dental in Brisbane mentioned oral health problems in children.
Dr Stephen Allsopp says:
We have a practice in a semi-rural setting, with a mixed socio-economic profile.
We are also used to having children who are in desperate need of urgent dental treatment referred to us by public dental clinics because we have nitrous oxide sedation which helps relax nervous children (and adults).This is a simple gas that is administered through a mask and wears off straight away, so the children can walk straight out after treatment is finished.
Usually these children are often traumatized by having an urgent dental problem and experiencing a number of unsuccessful attempts by dentists to treat them. Oftentimes it’s difficult to regain their trust, let alone try the nitrous oxide.
You can imagine our relief when we started seeing parents bringing their children along, as a result of the Children’s Dental Benefit Schedule (CDBS), for examination and treatment, in many cases, well before they needed more unpleasant procedures done.
We were equally shocked at the number of children who had never seen a dentist. Sometimes due to cost and sometimes due to a total lack of dental awareness in the family.
The CDBS has helped, not only by providing much needed urgent treatment, but also by opening up families to dental education and awareness. It allows them to choose a dentist and form trust and have better experiences for their children, so they continue to seek maintenance.
We, the dentists, have been astounded not only by the sheer volume of need, but also the cases of the level of devastation that these children’s teeth have presented to us. It has also been an emotional experience for us too.
One 5 year old child who was treated recently, comes to mind.
The parents brought her in and, as is often the case, were surprised to learn of the serious problems in her mouth. The parents also feel guilty for their child being in such a state.
This young child unfortunately needed two teeth removed due to abscess formation. However, other molars that were more critical to maintaining space and possibly avoiding later orthodontic needs were able to be saved. We were able to save other teeth with a combination of urgent restorations and one nerve removal and stainless steel crown. This child is pain free and has a chance of normal development, possibly with less treatment needed later.
Not all examples are so happy but if the CDBS is allowed to continue, then I believe we will be able to maintain the momentum and avoid a boom and bust cycle when it comes to this next generation’s teeth. The public dental clinics are forced, due to lack of resources, to treat cases that are often are acute and arrive much too late to be rectified fully.
The CDBS gives us a chance to break this pattern. It is a worthwhile investment in early intervention that actually will require less resources over time, if only the federal government continues its commitment to the scheme.
Dr William Huynh says:
I am a dentist and I care about making a difference.
3 most common problems I see are:
1. Modern life is too busy for many. There is not enough time to truly take care of ourselves. Shortcuts are often in diet and nutrition.
2. Many people are complacent about their health and don’t value its importance until it deteriorates. We think we can just get things ‘fixed’.
3. People are worried about the increasing cost of healthcare. There is an increasing demand for better and more expensive high tech treatments. Prevention is the cheapest form of treatment.
Going to the dentist is part of life, but our observation is that people who put it off or avoid it are typically also not taking care of themselves in other aspects of their lives.
We take a holistic approach in our care and do have a focus of removing fear of going to the dentist. I have a background in the practice of mindfulness (& Buddhism) and I continue to practice my service of others through my work. We have created a caring and compassionate team and have earned a reputation for making a difference.
We do dentistry differently.
We have taken an authentic slow down approach to truly listen and understand our patients
We help our patients develop the knowledge they need and then make suggestions that are easy to implement.
We help them value themselves and their health to make a sustainable difference.
Our process is quite simple. Assess. Diagnose. Treat. Maintain.
Recent research shows that tooth decay (caries) is continuing to rise in Australian children, with over half of six year olds already experiencing tooth decay in their baby teeth. This is very alarming for a completely preventable condition! Despite medical advances in dentistry, we haven’t been doing enough. We hope to make a change.
According to the Australian Dental Association (ADA), the CDBS is designed to provide 3.4 million eligible children from low income families with $1,000 in dental treatment every two years. The scheme is starting to make inroads, addressing the trends that see over half of six year olds experiencing decay in their baby teeth; and almost half of 12 year olds experiencing decay in their permanent teeth.
The ADA has advocated for families being provided with a CDBS voucher rather than a standard letter from Medicare in order to help improve access to the scheme. The ANAO and Health Department Review reports estimated that an average 1 million children have benefited each year. The Health Department’s report revealed that the bulk of these children received less than $400 in assistance for dental treatment each year. According to the ADA, the CDBS allows for early intervention to address any issue and to prevent the long term burden of oral disease and ultimately reduce public expenditure in the future.
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