Tarumbal Smiles - a cavity free future for children at a Central Queensland kindergarten

  • Boy getting his teetch checked
    Tarumbal child at the CQUuniversity oral health clinic
  • Melissa Plath, Leonie Short and Nancy Hegarty
    Melissa Plath, Leonie Short and Nancy Hegarty
  • Nancy Hegarty with children at the clinic
    Nancy Hegarty with children at the clinic

Photos: Leonie Short


Lack of access to dental treatment for children at C&K Tarumbal Kindergarten in North Rockhampton was eliminated by the Tarumbal Smiles Project which provided bus transport, dental examinations, preventive and restorative treatment as well as oral health education for children and their families.

Children at C&K Tarumbal Kindergarten are identified in either two or three of the four priority populations in Australia’s Oral Health Plan 2015-2024. These priority populations are:

  • people who are socially disadvantaged or on low incomes;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
  • people living in regional and remote areas; and
  • people with additional or specialised health care needs.

The kindergarten is a non-fluoridated area in regional Queensland.

Nearly three quarters of the children had not previously had dental examinations or treatment. The Tarumbal Smiles Project provided bus transport to and from the CQUniversity Oral Health Clinic where the children were treated by Bachelor of Oral Health students.

The project was made possible through Alliance for a Cavity Free Future Community Grant funding and in-kind services by CQUniversity in 2018 with bus transport, dental examinations, preventive and restorative treatment as well as oral health education for children and their families.

The Tarumbal Smiles Project built on an intervention program started in 2009 (by Queensland Health and CQUniversity) of oral health education and a supervised brushing program with fluoride toothpaste.

All children attending appointments received take-home Colgate Patient Education packages. Where indicated for caries prevention, children received fluoride varnish treatment when attending appointments at the Oral Health Clinic.

Oral health educational resources were purchased for CQUniversity staff and students and C&K Tarumbal Kindergarten staff to educate children and extended families in caring for teeth and gums. Resources included: books; costumes; models; puppets and stage; and downloadable activities, crafts and worksheets.

Staff at the Kindergarten have continued the intervention program of oral health education and daily supervised brushing program with fluoride toothpaste. Due to the emphasis placed on good oral health by the Kindergarten staff at the, children were enthusiastic and well behaved when they attended their appointments at the Oral Health Clinic

In addition to the children receiving oral health care, the CQUniversity Bachelor of Oral Health students received experience in treating the children as well as participating in a research project.

The project reduced the number of active caries lesions from the initial to the review appointment among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children attending C&K Tarumbal Kindergarten in 2018.

A report on this Alliance for a Cavity Free Future (ACFF) Community Grant funded research project has been submitted for presentation at the International Association for Dental Research Asian Pacific Region 2019 by Melissa Plath, Leonie Short, Nancy Hegarty and Kelly Hennessy.

 

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