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Students make a mark

Tuesday, 18th April, 2017

Bianca Tesoriero and Andrew Somerville in the Silver City advocating for better oral health. Bianca Tesoriero and Andrew Somerville in the Silver City advocating for better oral health.

By Michael Murphy

Two University of Sydney students are on a mission to improve the oral health of aged-care residents in Broken Hill, and they have their eyes firmly on getting a dental chair at a local aged-care facility into operation.

Andrew Somerville and Bianca Tesoriero are undertaking their final year of a Bachelor of Oral Health at the university’s Faculty of Dentistry, and they discovered the disused chair at the Southern Cross facility during a research assignment.

“While conducting the initial needs-analysis, to try and gauge the attitudes of the facility, we were asking whether there are any programs in place, or what we could do better, and there was a general awareness of oral health, and there was a sense that it was being focussed on,” Andrew said.

“And then when we rocked up to the facility we saw this fantastic set up,” he said.

“We thought this is superb, we are so lucky to have this here because we will be able to work upon this and build something quite proper.”

Andrew said the donated chair presented a real opportunity for the students to “leave their mark” in the city and “do something substantial”.

The students have begun discussions with Southern Cross and the Far West Local Health District about getting dental services to residents via the chair.

“This is in discussion at the moment, so nothing is cemented, but stakeholders seem to be on board and we are making progress,” Andrew said.

The pair will continue to correspond with the health service and Southern Cross about the in-house service, which they say combats one of the major problems they even have in state’s capital. 

“An issue that we face back in Sydney is that we have elderly patients, and it is so difficult to formulate treatment plans around them and say we’ll organise all these appointments, and that’s how we will get everything done,” Andrew said.

“Because often we will get patients that won’t come back, because, with mobility issues, it is actually too difficult for them to get back.

“But here (in Broken Hill), it is just down the corridor.”

Bianca said the pair gave an oral health presentation to residents as well as staff, because a lot of the residents rely on the help of staff to maintain oral health.

“We have gone in and presented what we have pre-planned as well as try and identify what that facility particularly needs,” Bianca said, adding that common problems with elderly populations included dry mouth caused by medications, and denture dermatitis.

The pair were genuinely excited about the growth of oral health in the city, especially plans for five new dental chairs at the local health service, part of a $30 million health development expected to begin in the next few months.

“We have got the general gist that there is a growth happening in oral health in Broken Hill,” Andrew said.

“We want to ride that wave and ensure that aged care doesn’t miss out.

“We’re putting the mouth back into health.”

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