The Carevan Foundation's Sun Smiles program, a volunteer dental initiative for disadvantaged primary school children, is set to continue after receiving a USD$6,000 Community Service Grant from Wrigley Company Foundation and the Australian Dental Association Foundation. After past successes in the Hume region's Wodonga, this time the Carevan will be visiting some 315 young kids from Lavington Primary School.
Program Manager and dental hygienist, Cathryn Carboon, explains how the grant funds will help this vital community dental program.
"We educate the children on maintaining good dental health. That includes promoting healthy nutrition and diet in a fun but scientific way. We teach the importance of brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste to reduce dental plaque, which also leads to tooth decay and gum disease. And importantly, in small, hands-on training sessions we help kids develop their toothbrushing technique – you'd be surprised how many kids still don't know how to brush their teeth properly because they've never been shown," Ms Carboon said.
Dr John Brabant, Carevan Foundation founder and Sun Smiles director, said: "Prior to our program being implemented in these Hume regional schools, access to basic preventative dental care was very low. For example, 85 per cent of kids had never received a fluoride varnish treatment. Most hadn't been to a dentist in the past year and many displayed poor dental health practices. We want to change all that."
The Sun Smiles program is supported by a large volunteer group including Charles Sturt University students (who are on rural clinical placement at the Thurgonna Campus); local dentists; oral health therapists; dental hygienists; and dental assistants.
"Every six months, we'll have Charles Sturt University dentistry students volunteering on school grounds who provide free fluoride varnishes to the kids from the Sun Smiles' Care Van," Ms Carboon said.
The Sun Smiles program also provides twice-annual dental screening and provides a pathway to ongoing dental treatment for those kids who need it.
On-the-ground research and dental screening carried out on 224 Wodonga West Primary School students and 126 Glenroy Primary School students by the Sun Smiles team showed that 20 per cent of kids required urgent dental care where the children had obvious signs of dental decay, infection and were experiencing pain. A remaining 19.5 per cent required early dental care and 23.5 per cent needed orthodontic work. 50 per cent of all students were provided with dental referral letters for follow-up dental care.
"We're making a real difference. On top of the education and treatment, all the kids take away a home kit of toothpaste, a toothbrush and some oral health brochures. We also provide nutritious food platters on the day by Carevan's community volunteers. The kids really respond to learning about their dental health," Ms Carboon said.
The Wrigley Company Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Wrigley Pacific. As part of Mars Incorporated, which also includes the Mars Chocolate, Petcare and Food segments, Wrigley Pacific has a rich history of giving back to communities. Whilst Wrigley Pacific is located in Sydney, the company is particularly proud to support a community oral care program close to its Petcare headquarters in Wodonga.
Further information about the Carevan Foundation and Sun Smiles can be found at www.carevan.com.au
Applications for the Community Service Grants program will open in March 2015.
The ADAF and Wrigley Company Foundation Community Service Grants
- The Community Service Grants initiatives provide much needed funding to volunteer dentists, dentistry students and teams of dental professionals, to help improve the oral health of some of Australia's most disadvantaged communities including indigenous communities, the homeless, people with special needs and disability, low income earners and the elderly. The grants provide funding to cover the purchase of supplies and other expenses to either develop or expand existing community service programs.
- Through the 2014 grants program, a total of USD$82,000 will be awarded to 13 grant programs across Australia. Since its introduction, in collaboration with ADA Inc. in 2011, the program has already awarded USD$259,000 in funds to grant recipients from 2011-2014.
- Andrew Leakey, General Manager, Wrigley Pacific, said: "The grants and their hard working volunteers, help bridge the gap in access to oral care services and dental education throughout Australia. Wrigley is committed to improving the state of dental health in Australia and around the globe. The Wrigley Oral Healthcare Program operates in 47 countries worldwide to engage dentists on the benefits of sugar free gum as part of good oral healthcare routine and initiatives such as the Community Service Grants are dedicated to supporting the communities where oral care support is needed the most," said Andrew Leakey, General Manager, Wrigley Pacific.
- "The ADAF congratulates this year's successful grantees. Volunteer groups of dental professionals who provide Australia's most deprived communities with free oral health treatments and education need to be applauded. It's these volunteer initiatives that are helping, first-hand, to curb the growing rate of dental decay and disease," said David Owen, Chairman Advisory Board, Australian Dental Association Foundation.