WIDESPREAD dental disease has gone unchecked in remote and isolated NSW where poor dental hygiene, unhealthy diets, and limited access to services has forced children as young as two to have all their teeth removed, a new report shows.
The first results of a pilot dental clinic project in four communities in the state's north-west paint a damning picture of basic oral health in the bush and reveal the majority of patients have not seen a dentist for more than two years.
Many of the 417 patients seen over three months this year in Bourke, Lightning Ridge, Collarenebri and Goodooga had missing teeth, untreated decay and teeth removed due to decay.
The initial report into the Royal Flying Doctor Service dental clinics found the most common way for patients to deal with dental disease was to remove the problem teeth and that levels of untreated decay was ''significantly higher'' in children.
''A lot of the patients we have seen through Collarenebri, their teeth are so far gone they cannot be restored,'' a dentist Hendrik Lai said.
Dr Lai said high-sugar diets, a lack of water fluoridation, little oral health education and the greater incidence of multiple chronic diseases, such as diabetes - some of which may be caused in part by dental problems - all contributed to poor dental health.
''We see the whole gamut of oral health problems … and that's largely due to a lack of access to care, which we tend to experience out in these rural and remote areas,'' he said.
''Whether it's issues with two-year-olds needing all their teeth removed, five-year-olds needing 15 fillings, 80-year-olds having no access to dentures, 20-year-olds needing 20 fillings - those are the stand-out issues with a very, very high unmet need for oral health and oral health treatment.''
Wayne Dixon, 44, a seasonal worker and one of Collarenebri's roughly 500 residents, said before the clinic came to town in March, the infections in his mouth had become so bad he could no longer work processing cotton due to the cold and vibrations from the machinery rippling through his head and neck.
''With the infection going through the jaw, it set in to my whole mouth and it was fairly rapid, the deterioration,'' he said.
Mr Dixon said he travelled to Moree to have two teeth extracted at a cost of $500 but could not afford to have any more dental work done.
''Out here, when you work you're doing 12-hour days and when you're not, you don't have the money,'' he said.