top of page

Dental and Oral Healthcare

As the primary, and often only, healthcare provider in some parts of remote and rural Australia, the Royal Flying Doctor Service has first-hand experience of the impacts of poor oral health on remote and rural Australians. The RFDS has responded by establishing a range of state-based remote and rural outreach, fly-in fly-out, and mobile oral health services. However, the demand for these oral health services in remote and rural Australia far outweighs the supply, and significant service gaps remain.

Access to oral healthcare is challenging for people in rural and remote areas, with far fewer dentists available. Oral health problems can adversely affect general health, including issues with diabetes, stroke, heart problems and low birth weight in babies. Flying Doctor clinics service remote locations, bringing scarce specialist health services to reach some of the state’s most isolated communities. These services have significantly benefited the communities they serve, resulting in many areas in a 50 per cent reduction in cavities in children and a consistent decline in cavities in adults.

The RFDS SE dental and oral healthcare services primarily operate out of Broken Hill and Dubbo- the later established thanks to philanthropic grants provided through the Gonski and Investec foundations, more than $1,000,000 in donations from the Outback Car Trek, and the dedicated fundraising efforts of the Bright Smiles Charity Ride.

After successfully demonstrating the positive effects of the program on community health, the RFDS SE have continued to fund the program, whist they continue to seek funding from a variety of sources, including philanthropic, fundraisers and corporations, to make this service sustainable in the long term.

The RFDS national dental and oral health care service has provided 8,975 patient contacts in the last financial year,  averaging 24 patients per day.

Comparative Statistics:

  • There are more than one third (37%) of remote area residents living with untreated decay.

  • More than half (57%) of Indigenous Australians having one or more teeth affected by decay.

  • One in five (22%) major city adults have gum disease, with this prevalence rising to more than one in three (36%) in remote Australia

  • Dental decay can be half (55%) more likely again for remote area children than children in major cities

  • The number of filled teeth is more than double (117%) for remote area children than children of major cities.

  • The disparity in oral health outcomes between city and country is directly related to disparities in dental care availability and access.

  • On average, more than six in ten (63%) major city adults visited a dentist in a year, compared to little more than four in ten (45%) in remote areas.

  • When dental visits occurred, people from remote areas required more acute interventions; one in three (33%) remote area residents had a tooth extraction in a year compared to a little more than one in ten (12%) people from major cities.

  • Access is limited by the availability of dental professionals in remote areas; major cities have been found to have 72.3 dentists per 100,000 people compared to 22.7 per 100,000 people in remote areas.

bottom of page