A PUSH to change laws governing the use of fluoride treatments so that Aboriginal youngsters can get better access, has paid off for the Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative (BDAC).
The local health service has successfully lobbied, with other health organisations, to change legislation that had restricted fluoride treatments to dental professionals.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said the government would assist by contributing $360,000 to the Loddon Mallee Fluoride Varnish program for children in schools, Aboriginal-specific early years services and Aboriginal childcare organisations.
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BDAC executive director of operations Dallas Widdicombe said the changes to the Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substances Regulations 2017 to allow Aboriginal Health Practitioners to give fluoride treatments to children which would reduce tooth decay and prevent existing decay from progressing further.
"It will facilitate timely application of fluoride to Aboriginal children in an environment that is culturally appropriate, inclusive of, and easily accessible to Aboriginal families," he said.
A dental fees survey, reported by Canstar, found the average cost of a fluoride treatment in Australia was $36 and was usually performed as part of a routine check-up and clean which cost on average $214.
The service will be provided for free at BDAC and is expected to save families significant sums of money.
Advanced tooth decay is 1.9 times more common in Aboriginal young children than non-Aboriginal children.
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The changes were lobbied for by the Loddon Mallee Aboriginal Reference Group (LMARG), which is made up of BDAC, Njernda in Echuca and the Murray Valley Aboriginal Co-operative at Robinvale.
The BDAC health centre began a pilot program of fluoride treatments in 2018/ 20, which reached 200 Aboriginal children. The government funding will twice-yearly fluoride varnish applications, oral health promotion and free tooth packs to Aboriginal children across the Loddon Mallee region.
The program is on top of the $321 million School Dental Program - Smile Squad that is providing free annual dental care for all children at government primary and secondary schools across Victoria.
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