Smiles for ‘above and beyond’ dental reach

HONOURS: BHS dental's Shianne Milera, Hannah Quinlan, Jacqui Nolan and Siobhan Shannon celebrate a team effort. Picture: Lachlan Bence
HONOURS: BHS dental's Shianne Milera, Hannah Quinlan, Jacqui Nolan and Siobhan Shannon celebrate a team effort. Picture: Lachlan Bence

HITTING the streets and getting to know people has really opened the eyes of students and staff of Ballarat Health Services’ dental clinic.

Since moving to Sebastopol more than 18 months ago, the team has taken an increasingly pro-active approach to oral health. Sometimes it is about sharing morning teas or volunteering to help in community activities rather than telling people to get a dental check-up.

Sometimes it is about innovative problem-solving, like creating ways at-risk or homeless young people can clean their teeth if they did not have regular access to a sink or toothbrush and toothpaste. 

BHS dental manager Jacqui Nolan said the aim has been to build trust and relationships with those who need them most.

“We noticed a lot of people eligible (for public dental care)just weren’t coming in or coming in low numbers. We decided it was time to start making an impact and go out there and build relationships,” Ms Nolan said.

“Sometimes it’s just being there so when it is time to come in to the clinic, there is already that trust and they feel more comfortable...If they meet the same team, they don’t have to go through their story again.”

BHS has been honoured as Dental Health Services Victoria public dental health clinic of the year for going above and beyond to care for those Victorians most in need of dental treatment and care.

The staff’s community involvement is widespread, from work in maternity, aged care, education, community heath to indigenous health. This includes a chair they can take to the people.

“I think dentistry shouldn’t be seen as scary but a lot of people are frightened about going to the dentist or don’t like it,” Ms Nolan said. “We all really understand the reasons people don’t come in here, so we have to be flexible enough to come to them, to not be bound by walls.”

The clinic’s relocation to Sebastopol, on site with Phoenix P-12 Community College, in April last year, allowed the service to expand as a teaching clinic for university students. Ms Nolan said becoming a teaching clinic had been a huge learning curve for staff, who had become more flexible in passing in how they shared knowledge.

But overall, the move had helped in adapting to community needs.

“This award means a lot to the whole team. It’s really great the dedication and flexibility of staff in the community has been recognised, that the hard work is paying off,” Ms Nolan said. 

“This award would not be possible without such a wonderful team, who go along with all my silly schemes to best help patients.”