A/Prof. Len Crocombe1
1University Of Tasmania, Deep Bay, Australia
Increasingly links are being found between oral and systemic health; e.g. aspiration pneumonia, diabetes, coronary heart risk, and rheumatoid arthritis. Historically, dentistry has used water fluoridation and behavioural modification to prevent dental diseases and a surgical approach to treating dental disease.
Predicting the future is a fool’s game. The best we can do is look at existing trends, extrapolate them forward, and then use that as a guide to see where we may be heading.
There are five trends influencing oral health:
Trend 1: Decreasing incidence of dental disease associated with fluoridation, preventive dental practices and reduced smoking rates
Trend 2: Dental diseases are focussing in certain segments of the community
Trend 3: Moving beyond improving oral health-related behaviours to a social determinants approach to improved community oral health
Trend 4: The move away from the surgical dental treatment approach
Trend 4: The rapid increase in dental workforce numbers
Trend 5: Changes in make up of the dental workforce
Extrapolating these trends suggests major changes will occur in dentistry in Australia and that allied health will be at the vanguard of these changes.
A/Prof Len Crocombe has worked as a private dental practitioner in rural and regional areas of Australia and as the State Coordinator of the Tasmanian Dental Service. He has seen the poor oral health of rural Australians first hand and understands that “throwing more money” at the problem to improve access to dental care is not sustainable in the longer term, that any interventions need to be cost-effective, and that a population health approach is needed to improve oral health.
He completed his PhD in oral health outcomes in 2009 to obtain the necessary research skills to improve community oral health, and in a relatively short time since then have published over 45 papers in peer-reviewed journals, presented at over 85 conferences, drafted 30 submissions and reports, and led a collaboration between the Universities of Adelaide, Tasmania and Western Australia in the successful application to establish an APHCRI Centre for Research Excellence in Primary Oral Health Care. His main areas of research interest are rural oral health, and aging and oral health, indigenous oral health. He is the NHMRC Translating Research into Practice Fellow in aged care oral health.