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  • LIVEfree Project Team

Kirra, the bravest patient we've ever had

We met Kirra in the March of 2020, when she was just 4 years old. Kirra is of Torre Strait Islander decent and one of seven in her family. Kirra is a beautiful girl who is a joy to be around. She’s the kind of girl that skips instead of walks and her cheeky grin will make your day.

But Kirra is not like other 4-year old’s, Kirra is tough.

After hearing about our Smile & Thrive Dental program, Kirra’s Mum became concerned about her daughter’s dental hygiene and asked if Kirra could be part of the program.

For most kids, going to the dentist is an uncomfortable and scary experience. Most children are often nervous or upset. But not Kirra. When I first took her to the dentist, she was smiley and joyful. She was even braver than some of the anxious adults in the waiting room!

As the dentist cleaned her teeth with his loud, rumbling electric toothbrush Kirra giggled. She said it was ticklish. This girl is fearless!

During the appointment, the dentist quickly realised that Kirra would need a significant amount of dental treatment. She needed at least two teeth extracted, spaces for her future adult teeth and the enamel on her front four teeth had not developed correctly.

Kirra’s family struggle with finances. With such a big family, it was often tough to put food on the table and affording baby formula wasn’t always possible. Kirra’s Mum said that when Kirra was a baby, she would feed her a bottle containing a mixture of brown sugar and water, if they didn’t have enough money for baby formula. This unfortunately had a lasting impact on Kirra’s baby teeth.

The dentist referred Kirra to the NSW Dental Clinic where she could receive the extensive treatment that she needed.

Due to the amount of treatment required and Kirra’s young age, the clinic immediately placed her onto the waiting list to have her dental treatment completed under general anaesthesia.

In Australia, we are incredibly lucky to have the healthcare system that we do. It means that families like Kirra’s can receive the dental treatment they desperately need, despite not having the money to pay for it.

However, with 13.6% of Australians living below the poverty line and unable to afford private healthcare, there is high demand and long wait times.

Kirra was on the waiting list for 21 months before she received the dental treatment that she needed.

In December 2021, one of our support workers transported Kirra and her father to the public dental hospital, a 45-minute drive away from their home, to finally receive the dental treatment she needed.

After 5 hours at the hospital, 8 tooth extractions and 2 fillings, Kirra’s treatment was finally complete. She came out of the surgery teary and a little bit dribbly, but giving us the thumbs up as she sucked on her ice block. She’s been one of the youngest and bravest dental clients we’ve ever had in our program.

It's been a long journey, but it has been a privilege to support Kirra and her family through it and beyond as we continue to provide education around future dental hygiene.

The Smile and Thrive Dental Program has been operating within our school for over 3 years now with wonderful success. Our Children have not only benefitted in learning the importance of forming strong healthy oral health care habits, but this program has improved the learning capacity of the students whose behaviour and ability to focus was affected because they were in pain from unaddressed dental issues

– Greg Culhane, Principal of local primary school

The Smile & Thrive Program is changing lives across Newcastle because many families who access it don’t have the capacity to get their children to their dental check-ups. Many of these families don’t have transport, aren’t aware of how to access the free Child Dental Benefits Scheme or simply don’t have the headspace, as their priority is getting food on the table.

Our Smile & Thrive Program partners with local primary schools to take disadvantaged children to the dentist for the treatment and education around oral hygiene they need to grow into thriving adults.

You can support this program today and help change the lives of vulnerable young children like Kirra. A donation of $100 will cover a child in this program for 1 year, you can donate here

*Client names have been changed to protect their privacy

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