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Clinic offers free children's dental screenings for Rohingya families

Pop-up children's dental clinic

November 2019

Clinic offers free children's dental screenings for Rohingya families

Clinic offers free children's dental screenings for Rohingya families

Marzeya Azimullah is keen to learn how to best care for her children’s teeth.

“If my son has healthy teeth, he will have a beautiful smile,” she said.

She brought her nine year old son Sahim Edris for a free dental screening at a special pop-up Oral Health Clinic for children from Rohingya families set up at a public primary school at Lakemba in south-western Sydney.

“He has a lot of problems with his teeth. Having healthy teeth is very important. We can get help at the Clinic so that’s why we are here,” Marzeya, who came to Australia from Myanmar in 2013, said.

Sydney Local Health District has contributed funding and support for the Clinic as part of the District’s Can Get Health in Canterbury project.

The project is run in partnership with Central and Eastern Sydney PHN and the University of New South Wales’ Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity.

It aims to improve access to primary health services for the area’s culturally and linguistically diverse population who face increased risks of developing preventable diseases or conditions.

“The Rohingya community identified that oral health was a priority for them,” Barbara Hawkshaw, the Program Officer for the Can Get Health in Canterbury project, said.

“So, in partnership with Sydney Dental Hospital, Canterbury Oral Health Clinic and Hampden Park Public School, we’ve offered a free screening for their pre-school and school-aged children. When you increase access to health care professionals, like dentists, it helps to address inequity,” she said.

Sahim was one of 47 children with an appointment at the Clinic set-up in three classrooms at the school.

“Some of the children may have never been to a dentist before. So, we’re reaching out to the community to provide the service,” Oral Health Therapist Sharon Chunyang said.

If the screening reveals a child needs further treatment, like a filling for a cavity, an appointment is made at the Canterbury Oral Health Clinic or the child is referred to a specialist.

One of the District’s Cultural Support Workers, Hosnara Begum, and Sajeda Bahadurmia, who works as a Learning Support Officer at the school, also delivered an interactive talk, called The Mouth House, in-language about how to keep teeth healthy.

The talk simplifies the understanding of oral health – the teeth in a child’s mouth are compared to people living in a house. It aims to show, that just like people prefer to live in clean houses, a child’s teeth likes to live in a clean mouth.

“It’s important to share simple messages with families. Our message is to Eat Well, Drink Well, Clean Well and Stay Well. Eat healthy foods, drink tap water and avoid sugary drinks, brush teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day, and visit a dentist for a check-up once a year,” Hosnara said.

Marzeya’s son now has a follow-up appointment at the Canterbury Oral Health Clinic and she has learnt ways to best care for his teeth.

“I learnt a lot of things. How to care for our children’s teeth and… about having healthy food in the children’s lunchbox and at home. My children love sweets, chocolates, and ice cream. I need to change that. I need to stop buying them. It will change my shopping habits,” she said.

Associate Professor Shilpi Ajwani, Head of Oral Health Promotion and Research, said “Prevention is the key. We want to focus more on prevention rather than treating children once they have a disease.”

There are plans to expand the initiative to the District’s Arabic, Bengali, Mandarin and Cantonese speaking communities in the future.

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Page Last Updated: 27 May, 2020