Dr Manuela is making a big difference, one tooth, one child, one school and one community after another
Some dentists drill, fill and bill. Dental surgeon Dr. Jessica Manuela does her share of this, but also gives more than 20 hours of her own time weekly, speaking to school children about dental health and hosting community evenings. Her quest? For Tasmania to be the national leader in promoting oral health education. Her unwavering commitment saw her return to Tasmania and recently named 2018 Tasmanian Young Australian of the Year.
There’s more than a handful of Australian adults who quietly fear the dentist. Perhaps this is fuelled by early childhood memories of strict and painful school dental visits. Sit with Dr. Manuela for three minutes and you realise that there’s nothing to be scared of. The approachable Kingston local is determined to reshape Australia’s perception of visiting the dentist, and she’s starting with the kids.
“Fifty per cent of six-year-olds have a hole in their baby teeth and many Tasmanians don’t realise they can access dental care for their children free of charge under the Medicare Child Dental Benefit Scheme,” explains Dr. Manuela.
“Parents might fear the dentist but we’ve come so far with technology since they were young that these days a visit is painless. Children are not afraid until they are taught to be. Or until they avoid the dentist for so long that problems develop. If we can reach them early and maintain good dental hygiene that is the best scenario.”
When Dr. Manuela isn’t holding information evenings, sitting with school children or engaged as chairperson for Oral Health Promotion on the Tasmanian Dental Council, she’s tending to her own dental practice with more than 4 000 active patients. Her very successful Dental South Practice now has two locations.
Having completed her Bachelor of Dental Surgery in Adelaide, it was Tasmania that called Dr. Manuela home to set up her practice back in the state’s south.
“I realised I just love Tassie. It’s so beautiful here. There’s not many places where the mountains, rivers and beaches are 20 minutes from each other,” says Jess. “You can go to a beach and find you’re the only one there. This is what brought me back – it’s a lifestyle unmatched.”
Dr. Manuela grew up in southern Tasmania. Her father is from the Cook Islands and her mother has Launceston Aboriginal heritage. So she has a particular passion for working closely with Tasmanian Indigenous communities. With the support of the South East Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation and the Royal Flying Doctor Service Tasmania, Dr. Manuela has developed a specific program for Indigenous Tasmanian adults to access dental care.
Do a little research on Jess and you’ll find that she has many awards to her name. They include the St. Lukes Healthier Communities Award, Tasmanian Premier’s Young Achiever of the Year Award in 2017 and the 2012 New Zealand and Australian Society of Paediatrics Award. But what makes her a tad different from other high achieving professionals?
Jess has a bigger vision, a grander view than most. Her next step is to continue educating Tasmanians at a state level on oral health through friendly Tasmanian native marsupial cartoon characters across media outlets. Now that’s a dentist not to be afraid of.
Are you interested in making a move? Make it Tasmania.
Find out more about Dental South.
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