Dental therapist Denise Harrison (left), director of oral health Greg Davies, patient Soleil Ashford of Bangalow and Federal Member for Page Janelle Saffin at announcement of funding for a new dental school in Ballina.
Dental therapist Denise Harrison (left), director of oral health Greg Davies, patient Soleil Ashford of Bangalow and Federal Member for Page Janelle Saffin at announcement of funding for a new dental school in Ballina. DOUG EATON

Dental school to fill surgeries

FINAL year dental students will do their training on the Northern Rivers at a new dental school at Ballina worth nearly $1.2 million.

Page MP Janelle Saffin yesterday announced the Federal Government would chip in $722,000 for the project with the remainder to be covered by the University of Sydney and the NSW Health Department’s Centre for Oral Health Strategy.

The training centre would make up four new dental surgeries built as an extension to the public dental clinic next to Ballina Hospital and would accommodate eight final year dental students at a time.

North Coast Area Health Service dental services director Dr Greg Davies said the students would see public patients, but the real benefits of having them in the region would go beyond the confines of their surgeries.

Having teaching facilities on the Northern Rivers would help attract dental specialists – such as orthodontists and paediatric dentists – to the region.

The other hope was that, by offering extended training on the Northern Rivers, students would start to settle in the region and would stay on after completing their training.

“We are very excited about this project,” North Coast Area Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford said. “It means extra services for our public dental clients.”

Mr Crawford said, even if those students left public dentistry to work in the local private sector, they would still have a big impact on the region’s dental system.

Area Health Service Advisory committee chair Hazel Bridgett said the need to improve dental services on the Northern Rivers was an issue that was repeatedly hammered home to the committee in public consultation sessions.

Ms Saffin said the expanded school was one of 22 projects, worth a total $33 million, around the country. Ms Saffin said the waiting list for public dental care across Australia presently stood at about 650,000 and she expected the local waiting list would reach into the thousands.



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