A vital community service - revitalising the Oral Health Centre

19/01/2022 | 4 mins

Despite oral health being a key contributor towards overall health, well-being and quality of life, dentistry is often underappreciated within the community as an area of focus for health research.

That’s why the refurbishment of Oral Health Centre of WA (OHCWA)’s main clinical space, is cause for such celebration among UWA Dental School alumni and supporters.

As the only facility in the State offering tertiary training in dentistry, OHCWA is an invaluable teaching and learning facility for the dental students of UWA, offering real-world experience while also providing the community with high quality, subsidised general and specialist dental services for patients from diverse backgrounds – many who would otherwise not be able to access or afford dental treatment.

“The importance of oral health care for overall wellbeing is often underestimated”, said Professor Hien Ngo, Dean and Head of UWA Dental School.

“OHCWA provides a vital clinical service to the community and also gives patients, students and staff the opportunity to engage in research about how we can continually improve care.”

According to its patients, the importance of OHCWA for the WA community is two-fold. Firstly, it helps the community by supporting any individual who has difficulty accessing mainstream and private dentistry to access the treatment they need. Secondly, it helps our future dentists develop their dentistry and interpersonal skills ‘on the job’ with patients who may have complex needs.

A policy of consistent consultation with the individuals and families who access treatment remains at the heart of the clinic, ensuring their voices are respected.

“The students will benefit from this, as they are our future dentists, dental nurses and administrators”, said Iren Hunyadi, OHCWA patient and consumer representative.

“They will learn how to manage different situations, as they work with a range of clients with a variety of problems.” 

UWA Dental School student representative, Dr Sally Tan, said the facility played a crucial role during her course and highlighted the invaluable teaching and learning opportunities made available the provision of dental services, both general and specialist dentistry, to the wider public. 

"It has been wonderful to see the transformation of the clinical area into a modern, refreshing, and welcoming setting. Many of my own patients, and those of my colleagues, have shared a similar sentiment."

Dr Sally Tan
Dr Sally Tan speaking at Dentistry event

With the updated clinic now available for patient care, a similar refurbishment is planned for the pre-clinical space, where students use simulation machines and artificial models to practice their skills before progressing to patient care.

The project will also provide an opportunity to expand and integrate the facility to optimise its value for education and professional development. 

The Western Australian Dental Foundation, which was established by a leading group of alumni and friends, Chaired by Dr Ross Bailey, has committed to raising funds to make the new Dental Clinical Simulation Laboratory a reality – complementing UWA’s core investment – and supporting UWA Dental School into the future.

“I think all of us who have gained in dentistry and oral health from UWA have been given great opportunities, and have benefited from the foresight and contributions of those who have gone before us”, said The Honourable Dr John Day, Former Health Minister, UWA Dental School graduate and patron of the Dental Clinical Simulation Laboratory fundraising campaign.

"There is now the opportunity for members of the profession to assist in ensuring students of the future are able to learn in contemporary, state-of-the-art facilities. I encourage all who are able to do so to contribute to making the new Clinical Simulation Laboratory a reality."

The Honourable Dr John Day, Former Health Minister

With 2021 marking the 75th anniversary of the UWA Dental School, and so much positive community impact and support – from graduates, students, staff, those in the profession and the wider community – it is safe to say that the potential for increased appreciation and understanding of oral health in WA has never been more promising.

UWA Dental School graduates are encouraged to update their details with UWA to join future alumni activities. To discuss making a contribution to the Dental Clinical Simulation Laboratory project, please contact Kate McKenzie, Development Manager, on email at kate.mckenzie@uwa.edu.au or by calling (08) 6488 8542. To donate online, visit campaign.uwa.edu.au/give-now and type ‘Dental Clinical Simulation Laboratory’ in the comments box.

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