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“Sorry, I’m not a dentist”: perspectives of rural GPs on oral health in the bush

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Australians living in rural areas have poorer oral health than city residents.1 They experience higher rates of dental caries2 and are more likely than people in city areas to visit dentists for problems other than check-ups.3 Complicating this situation is the inadequate availability of dental care services in rural areas because of the uneven distribution of dental practitioners across Australia; most dentists and other dental practitioners practise in city areas.4,5 Many small rural towns in Australia do not have the population to support a full-time or resident dentist. Dental services in Australia are largely provided by the private sector (85%);6 public oral health services are provided only for those under 18 years of age and for adults who hold health care concession cards.7

People on low incomes who cannot regularly access dental care and who do not have private insurance are more likely to present to general medical practices and hospital emergency departments with oral health problems for immediate treatment and referral.813 It is concerning that dental conditions accounted for 63 000 avoidable…