14 March 2023

TAFE NSW Wagga students trial Australian-first dental devices

| Jarryd Rowley
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student and dentist with dental device

TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga nursing student Saskia Hall trials a new oral health device created by local dentist Dr Mark Wotherspoon (right). Photo: TAFE NSW.

Wagga Wagga TAFE NSW students have trialled a new Australian-first dental care device that allows nurses to identify potential oral health issues in elderly patients.

The small device, created by Wagga dentist Dr Mark Wotherspoon, attaches itself to the camera of a mobile device and is inserted into the mouth of patients, allowing for aged-care workers to effectively and comfortably identify and take pictures of any potential oral health issues.

From the images collected, nurses are able to refer their findings to dentists to prescribe treatment.

Dr Wotherspoon believes the new device will allow nursing students and aged-care workers to feel more comfortable when looking after patients and provide clear and useful data.

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“Nobody works harder than the current aged-care workforce,” the Dentist To Your Door founder said.

“It’s important for students to feel confident while looking in someone’s mouth and to understand what they are observing.

“We want them [students and nurses] to have the skills to take a digital image using the latest technology and provide information that can be referred to a practitioner.

“The mouth and oral health present their own unique challenges. The mouth itself is a gateway to the lungs and digestive system. By applying these new techniques and applications, it will help improve people’s general health.”

TAFE NSW students took part in a range of dental workshops, including brushing techniques and denture care.

“We have received a lot of positive feedback,” Dr Wotherspoon said.

“A lot of students were a bit reluctant, but as the workshop went on, it was clear the students were gaining confidence and feeling more comfortable.”

TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga head teacher Kellie Harmer said the new devices and the workshops were beneficial for students, allowing them to have a practical demonstration on how to identify and prevent bad oral hygiene.

“At TAFE NSW, we are trying to rebuild the workforce,” Mrs Harmer said.

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“Right now, nursing is at a critical stage with low staff and skill shortages.

“Being able to provide training and support students and established nurses through programs like the dental workshops enables us to build up the workforce.”

TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga nursing student Saskia Hall said she learnt a great deal from the workshops.

“Between the theory and the prac, I was able to gain so much more extensive knowledge and build upon the basics that I already knew,” she said.

“Actually seeing and experiencing what we were learning helped me understand some of our teaching a bit more.”

Dr Wotherspoon said he hoped workshops such as the ones trialled in Wagga Wagga could become a regular occurrence for students training in aged care and nursing across NSW.

“It is definitely an Australian first, using a combination of theory and practical workshops with the assistance of specific aged-care mannequins,” he said.

“I’ve certainly never heard of workshops like this globally.

“I really do believe that programs like this will spread statewide, then nationwide and throughout all of the other teaching institutions.”

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