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Dentists trial pop-up clinics for Wagga's vulnerable - The Daily Advertiser, Wagga Wagga

28 April 2021 
The Daily Advertiser, Wagga Wagga  
Journalist: Kenji Sato

Dentists trial pop-up clinics for Wagga's vulnerable

Wagga dentists are trialling pop-up clinics to help brighten the smiles of people facing mental illness and homelessness.

The new program is being test-run by the city’s Charles Sturt University campus and sees dentists and student dentists provide a portable service for vulnerable patients.
The first pop-up clinic was held this week at Sunflower House, where people with disabilities came to get a free service.

One such recipient is Carolyn Mobbs, who struggles to brush her teeth due to her schizophrenia medication making her hands shake. The dentists showed her how to use an electric toothbrush instead, and she was relieved when they told her she would be able to keep her teeth with a bit of care and maintenance.

"They told me I can keep my teeth, I just need a few fillings and a clean," Ms Mobbs said. "Late last year I had a tooth ache, and that was about the only time I've gone to the dentist."

Another recipient was Judy Russell, who has already lost some of her top teeth last year due to rotting. Ms Russell said she was determined to keep up her oral hygiene in order to preserve her remaining teeth.

"They told me I was eating too many lollies and smoking. I always smoked since I was nine years old. I used to pinch me grandmothers, but she caught me in the bathroom with me cousins," Ms Russell said. "I'm trying to cut down on lollies and the smokes. I'm thinking of my bottom teeth and my health."

Senior dentist and CSU lecturer Mark Wotherspoon said they were hoping to expand their program to homelessness providers and aged care facilities, saying there was a great need in the community.

"Our aim is to demonstrate how easy it is to set up a little pop-up dental clinic. It's easy to do, it's affordable, and it makes a very big difference to the members' lives and their general health," Dr Wotherspoon said.

"A big push in modern dentistry is to understand the link between oral health and general health. It's not just about having fresh breath, it's also about improving lung health, respiratory health, cardiovascular health, and helping people who suffer from diabetes to control their diabetes."

Sunflower House NDIS manager Katy Travers said the dentists had done wonders for their members' oral health. Ms Travers said their tips, tricks, and advice on oral hygiene were just as valuable, saying that their members greatly needed the education.

"Dental hygiene gets forgotten when mental health episodes are at their worst. We all know that having a healthy lifestyle increases your mental health as well," Ms Travers said. "We're very grateful for Mark and the CSU clinic and students to trail this at Sunflower House."

Photo credit: Emma Hillier 

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