Overall, people living in regional and remote areas of Australia have poorer oral health than those living in Major cities (COAG 2015), and oral health status generally declines as remoteness increases. People living in rural areas have access to fewer dental practitioners than their city counterparts, which, coupled with longer travel times and limited transport options to services, affects the oral health care that they can receive (COAG 2015; Bishop & Laverty 2015).
People living in Remote and Very remote areas are also more likely to smoke and drink at risky levels. They have reduced access to fluoridated drinking water and face increased costs of healthy food choices and oral hygiene products. These risk factors contribute to this population’s overall poorer oral health (COAG 2015).
Royal Flying Doctor Service
The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) provides a comprehensive range of primary healthcare services throughout Australia. After recognising that a large proportion of people living in remote and rural Australia do not have access to a regular dental service, the RFDS established their dental service designed to support communities in country Australia. These services are provided using ‘fly-in fly-out’, mobile and outreach delivery models and are funded by the Commonwealth of Australia (Gardiner et al 2020).
Data from the RFDS administrative patient dataset (unpublished) shows that in 2019–20:
- the RFDS performed 43,633 dental procedures for 5,143 unique patients
- the leading service categories were diagnostic services (12,505 procedures) and preventive services (11,576 procedures) followed by general services (8,878 procedures) and restorative services (7,266 procedures).
Bishop LM & Laverty MJ 2015. Filling the gap: Disparities in oral health access and outcomes between metropolitan and remote and rural Australia. Canberra: Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia.
COAG (Council of Australian Governments) Health Council 2015. Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives: Australia’s National Oral Health Plan 2015–2024. Adelaide: South Australian Dental Service.
Gardiner, FW, Richardson, A, Gale, L, et al. Rural and remote dental care: Patient characteristics and health care provision. Aust J Rural Health. 2020; 28: 292– 300. doi.org/10.1111/ajr.12631