Rural kids being left behind in dental health deserts

Australian Greens

The Victorian Greens have called on the Victorian Labor Government to urgently address the dental health care deserts across regional Victoria.

The Greens say these deserts have created a postcode lottery that sees kids in rural areas without access to dental health care disadvantaged from day one.

Many smaller towns in Victoria don’t have a local dentist, and clinics in regional centres can have lengthy, blown-out wait lists.

The government-funded free school dental program – Smile Squad, which has been running since 2019 – has yet to visit many rural and regional towns.

This means kids in towns in the West Wimmera like Stawell, Warracknabeal, Natimuk, Rainbow and Edenhope are yet to benefit from the program.

In a speech delivered in Parliament today, Greens MP Dr Sarah Mansfield said because of these dental healthcare deserts kids were much more likely to develop dental problems at a very young age.

She said to prevent this, Labor needed to step up and adequately fund oral health in regional Victoria.

The Greens are urging Labor to address the inequality between metropolitan and regional kids by providing the Smile Squad program state-wide.

As stated by Victorian Greens rural and regional spokesperson, Dr Sarah Mansfield:

“All students should have access to affordable, preventative and necessary dental care.

“Yet right now it’s a postcode lottery. I’ve heard from oral health workers who say they can tell where a child is from by looking in their mouth.

“It’s unfair that rural and regional families are being treated differently to people living in metro areas when it comes to dental care.

“As a GP I know firsthand how important it is for kids to have healthy teeth. Poor oral health is linked to a host of other health problems, and it also impacts speech development, self-esteem, and opportunities later in life.

“Access to a free school dental program shouldn’t be a matter of luck. Labor needs to ensure Smile Squad is properly funded so it can be accessed by students everywhere.”

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