CUTTING-edge school dental vans set to check-up across the state are taking shape in Ballarat.
Chassis for 10 new members of the Smile Squad vans have arrived in town from Europe to get started on what will be a mass roll-out in providing all Victorian public primary and secondary students free dental care.
Ballarat vehicle manufacturer Varley has the job to fit out the first batch of vans.
The vans are part of a $395.8 million election pledge from Labor to equip 250 new dental vans on the road by 2022. New Smile Squad vans will start visiting schools next term.
Wendouree-based Varley is known for fitting out specialist vehicles, like fire trucks and ambulances. Smile Squad vans will offer check-ups and treatment, including teeth cleaning, fluoride applications, fillings, root canals.
Three in five Grampians children are presenting to public dental clinics with tooth decay, clear above the state average of 50 per cent, according to Dental Health Services Victoria. Only 50 per cent of Australians brush day and night to prevent oral disease.
Children aged under 12 are eligible for government-funded dental healthcare but less than 20 per cent of children use the program. Most Ballarat families have to access the Ballarat Health Services-run public dental clinic in Sebastopol.
Labor made the initial dental pledge in Ballarat, a move welcomed by Yuille Park Community College principal Brett Shillito at the time. Mr Shillito said such on-site programs helped improve accessibility for families particularly in communities with barriers both financially and in reaching external services. He said good, early preventative measures helped support general health long-term.
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said oral health was an important foundation for allowing students a good start to life-long health.
It is estimated, once rolled out, Smile Squad would reach about 650,000 students and save families about $400 in dental annually.
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.