National Volunteer Week: Changing communities, changing lives

22 May 2020

National Volunteer Week (NVW - 18-24 May) is an annual celebration that acknowledges the enormous contribution of our nation’s volunteers. During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever to recognise and pay tribute to the volunteers who provide necessary and often critical dental care to disadvantaged members of their community.

The Australian Dental Foundation (ADHF) is using the week to say thank you to all of their volunteers for their efforts improving the oral health of Australians and in particular those who have faced significant challenges in their lives. Without their support, the ADHF would not have been able to coordinate the delivery of just under $3 million of treatment over the last three financial years. Nor would more than 100 individuals who have lived with domestic and family violence have been able to their dignity and
smiles restored. 

The ADHF is hoping to build on these successes and make access to dental treatment available to many more Australians in the future through the hard work of volunteers such as the people profiled below. (If you would like to volunteer for the ADHF, go to Volunteer programs)

Dr Becky Dudman (Victoria)
Dr Dudman agreed to take on patient 'Ms S' who was referred to the ADHF by drummond street
services, a welfare organisation providing assistance to families, parents and young people in Victoria. With the support of practice owner Dr Fern White, who provided her surgery, staff and materials for the case, and The Dental Solution, who generously provided pro bono laboratory services, Dr Dudman was able to carry out an extensive treatment plan for the patient.

The initial phase consisted of a comprehensive oral examination, periodontal assessment and treatment planning. Scaling, cleaning and periodontal debridement took place in phase two and as preparation for the next stages. In the third phase of treatment, Dr Dudman placed four direct veneers on the maxillary central and lateral incisors. Subsequently, stage four comprised of two two-surface and one three-surface posterior toothcoloured restorations on the 27, 26 and 24 respectively. In conclusion of treatment, and the last phase of the plan, the construction of both maxillary and mandibular partial dentures was made using a die-cast metal frame replacing 13, 36, 37, 46 and 47.

In her final report of the case Dr Dudman wrote, "Ms S was such a joy to treat, always positive and I really looked forwards to my treatment sessions with her. She often arrived early for her appointments and told us she was incredibly grateful for the work we did. I found it rewarding to be able to help her feel more confident to smile and work towards gaining employment. I hope she achieves her goal of opening her own cafe."

Dr Girish Sasidharan (Tasmania)
Dr Girish Sasidharan, of Island Dental in Hobart, is a recent volunteer to the ADHF. He saw his first Adopt a Patient in 2019 and plans to host a Dental Rescue Day later this year.

Dr Sasidharan shared why he has chosen to volunteer with the ADHF - "I have always wanted to do probono dental work and have looked into many overseas volunteering trips online. Taking time off work and family commitments were the main barriers in doing such trips away from home. When I became a practice owner, I got more control in making this volunteering more practical. Working for private and public sector, I have always known that dental services are not accessible for everyone in the community and I wanted to do something in closing this gap."

Dr Sasidharan identifies the role that oral health plays in our physical and mental health and expressed that giving his skills, time and energy to a great cause like the volunteer dental programs was his unique way to give back. "I would strongly recommend all my colleagues especially those who own their own practices to come forward and participate in this great cause. It is very satisfying to do and you can definitely put a smile on people’s face by doing so."

Dr Melisa Wu (South Australia)
Dr Wu, of Dentistry on Unley, volunteered to assist patient 'Ms E' who was referred to the ADHF by Women’s Safety Services with a history of domestic and sexual abuse. Ms E, aged 59, was desperate to receive dental assistance, having had a front tooth knocked out and with deterioration of her teeth and gums due to Type 2 diabetes.

"I have become so self conscious and isolated because I’m so ashamed and embarrassed to go anywhere in public. As well my speech has changed, and I feel I’m hard to understand for others and my articulation and diction has been severely affected."

Dr Wu provided a treatment plan to her patient over a six-month period, including extractions, restorations and fitting dentures. Her colleague Dr Edward Pitts assisted with the extractions in this case. Dr Wu said, "Ms E is a motivated patient, keen to fix her teeth and regain her smile. She has been great with attending her appointments so far and is a pleasure to treat. I encourage my colleagues to volunteer with the Australian Dental Health Foundation; it was a great experience for Dentistry on Unley to be involved, and has provided personal joy and satisfaction for the whole team. We will be volunteering again this year."

Dr Peter Waltham with patient 'Ms K' (Victoria)
Dr Waltham is a longstanding volunteer for the ADHF, and previously the National Dental Foundation, in addition to serving as Chair of the Victoria State Committee.

He first met patient Ms K in early 2020 when she was referred to the ADHF by Windana, an organisation that offers a range of services that assist people in taking the steps necessary to improve their quality of life. Her dental concerns included the loss of her full upper denture two years ago and multiple ‘holes’ in her remaining lower teeth.

The loss of her full upper denture was making it very hard for her to eat a normal diet and, for her, this was her top priority. The initial consultation at Sandringham Dental focused on providing Ms K with a preventative plan to address further caries and gum disease. In subsequent appointments, Dr Waltham commenced impressions for her new full upper denture and started the restorative phase of treatment. The final phase of treatment involved making her a partial lower denture.

Dr Waltham would like to thank Mr Bodhi Hanley at Pearl Healthcare/Smile Corporation (Hampton) laboratory for his kind and generous support in providing pro bono laboratory services for this case.

He says, "Ms K has been a delight to treat, not only in that she has been so thankful for her treatment, but in her compliance with the preventive program and a profound turnaround in her attitude to dental health care."

Dr Russell Gordon (Western Australia)
Dr Gordon, of Rockingham Dental, agreed to treat patient 'Ms M', aged 30, when she was
referred to the ADHF by Ending Homelessness in Western Australia (EHIWA), a service that supports people who are experiencing homelessness.

Over eight appointments, scaling, restorations and 14 extractions took place. In mid-December Ms M was fitted with a complete maxillary denture. Dr Gordon said, "Even though they were quite arduous extraction appointments, she arrived on time for every one, such is her determination to change her life. Of course, the most important appointment to her was the last one when she got back her smile. At the moment her focus is on her two kids, but the difference having teeth makes to her self-esteem and employment possibilities can be life changing."

Pro bono laboratory services for this case were provided by Oceanic Dental, which supports ADHF volunteers in WA. They completed the denture with a quick turnaround so that Ms M could confidently attend a court custody application for her children. The ADHF would like to acknowledge Dr Gordon’s long commitment to volunteering and his many years of service on the WA State Committee.