Volunteers with Filling the Gap provided hundreds of vulnerable patients with more than $300,000 of free dental treatment in 2020.
As the charity of the Australian Dental Association’s New South Wales (ADA NSW) branch, Filling the Gap provides pro bono dental treatment to patients referred from various charities, including asylum seekers, patients with drug and alcohol dependency issues, and other disadvantaged Australians.
In recognition of its efforts, Filling the Gap has been shortlisted for the Association Forum’s 2020 Achievement of the Year Award.
Filling the Gap acting manager Dr. Sarah Raphael said the charity provides vital assistance for patients in need.
“Many of our patients have gone years without seeing a dentist or may never have seen one at all. Imagine being afraid to smile or being in constant pain and suffering because of the state of your health,” said Raphael.
“Good oral health is key to overall well-being. That’s why helping everyone, no matter what their personal circumstances are, access to dental treatment is so important,” Raphael said.
“In a year impacted by COVID-19, about 200 ADA NSW members and volunteers supported Filling the Gap’s dental programs. This underlines the generosity and spirit of dental practitioners and support staff, and we thank them all hugely,” Raphael said.
Filling the Gap works with several charities who refer patients to regular clinic days at ADA NSW’s St. Leonard’s base.
Clinics are overseen by ADA NSW staff and feature volunteer dental professionals including dentists, prosthetists, oral health therapists, and dental assistants. Treatment provided on the day focuses on pain relief and essential care and may include fillings, extractions, and periodontal treatment.
Patients also are provided with opportunities for follow-up appointments if needed or referred to community dentists.
“Many patients of Filling the Gap have said the treatment has vastly improved their quality of life, providing them with a heightened sense of dignity and self-respect,” said Raphael.
“Filling the Gap won’t solve the huge inequities in Australia’s dental health system, but it will help some of the most vulnerable patients in society access vital oral health treatment,” Raphael said.
“Oral health shouldn’t be a privilege. It’s a right. Through Filling the Gap, dental practitioners help those in need receive the dental treatment they deserve,” Raphael said.
The charity has launched a Christmas Smile donation scheme to fund services including treatment, interpreters, and personal protective equipment for patients as well.