“I hadn’t looked in the mirror for a long time. I’d go months and months and months without even looking at a mirror. I caught myself in the mirror the other day and I’m starting to like what I see” – resident

Oral Health Project

Oral health is fundamental to overall health, wellbeing, and quality of life. A healthy mouth enables people to eat, speak, and socialise without pain, discomfort, or embarrassment. Many of our clients report dental pain, or embarrassment regarding their smile, often covering their mouths when they talk. Since the establishment of this project in June 2022, approximately 80% of residents have opted in to receive no cost dental care through weekly clinics run at St Pats (Fremantle). Residents travel as a group by bus, accompanied by a Palmerston staff member.

Dental assessment and treatment is provided by retired dentist Dr Richard Slattery, supported by a dental nurse provided by St Pats. Participants complete a pre-treatment survey and one at completion of their series of treatments. The changes in responses from participants were significant, with considerable improvement between pre and post treatment. The benefits were aligned to three key themes:

  • Health: – positive oral health and associated health outcomes
  • Quality of life: hope for the future, confidence and self-esteem, speech and talking, confidence in appearance, overall health and wellbeing.
  • AOD recovery: reinforcement of AOD recovery engagement in rehabilitation

Participants confirmed how improved dental health impacted on their future hopes and aspirations. A number of residents noted that their dental health and treatment had an impact on their children and other family members.

Teeth are not just about how people chew or smile. Missing teeth or poor oral health can negatively impact on confidence, resilience, and self-worth, as well as future hopes, aspirations, and opportunities. Many participants have referred to physical, practical, and psychological benefits and have reflected on how their dental care and treatment complements their AOD recovery goals, their broader health and wellbeing, and their sense of having a fresh start.

The collaborative partnership between Palmerston, St Pat’s, and the dentist has been critical to the effectiveness of this project. All of the project partners have a comprehensive understanding of the histories and circumstances of the project participants and understand the importance of providing trauma-informed and non-judgemental care and support. The project has also effectively capitalised on the strengths and expertise of all of the project partners. As a result of all of these elements, the project has been a genuine and effective collaboration.

Dr Slattery noted the generosity of Palmerston in providing such comprehensive dental treatment for residents and of St Pat’s for also supporting the project. Participants identified that the availability of dental treatment for all residents at Palmerston Farm TC is a considerable point of difference between the Farm TC and other residential rehabilitation services and expressed genuine appreciation about the availability of the program. Access to affordable, timely, and restorative dental treatment was discussed frequently by project participants who had often significantly delayed accessing dental treatment – in some instances for over 10 years, with the cost and waiting lists being some of the significant barriers to accessing dental care.

Palmerston’s Oral Health Project is receiving national recognition and recently won the Excellence in Research and Evaluation Therapeutic Community Research Award in conjunction with Professor Lisa Wood, Notre Dame University and Tracie Cascioli, COO, St Patrick’s Community Support Centre, Fremantle.

To read more about our award winning program click here

You can also view the video about our program below or as seen on the ABC here