CHRIS Hart is giving residents in some of Queensland’s remote mining towns something to smile about.
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Delivering a smile in mining outposts
30/07/2010 4:40:40 PM
Erica Thompson
Resources Reporter

CHRIS Hart is giving residents in some of Queensland’s remote mining towns something to smile about.

The Brisbane dentist, who also has a surgery in Mount Isa, has expanded his Life Time Smiles practice to Dysart and Middlemount in central Queensland and will start fixing local choppers from next month.

His team of dentists will work on a fly-in, fly-out roster and will be able to perform the kind of procedures previously only available in the city. It’s the result of partnerships with several mining companies, which will help cover some of the set-up costs, and an innovative two-year training program Dr Hart created to allow established dentists to expand their skills.

"One of the problems with going into mining towns is our lit—outs cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. So if China decides to stop buying coal tomorrow, there’s no buyers for that dental practice," he says.

"What the mining companies have done is they've covered some of our fixed cost risk. They've helped us out with sites and also with sourcing assistant teams on the ground.

So anything we can’t take with us when we go, they're covering that expense." In return, the residents no longer have to travel long distances to get their pearly whites fixed and Dr Hart and his team get a unique learning environment.

"You'll be talking to someone and hey'll say 'l've had a moustache all my life because I hate my smile'. All of a sudden you've got a miner, 43, getting a smile makeover done. It's quite extraordinary."

But while they might be isolated, they're certainly not lacking in technology. The team keeps in daily contact via the internet and web conferencing. "We can swap files, X—rays and photos between any location in the world," he says.

"l was in Las Vegas for a seminar last month and we did a video conference with a patient from Mount Isa. We opened up the tiles remotely and workshopped the case in Las Vegas.

It blew the Americans' socks off." Dr Hart says another 20 dentists will join the training program over the next 18 months, which could allow the group to provide services to three or four more towns. "Thereʼs nothing better than going to an area that is desperate for care and being able to deliver the dentistry that they appreciate having done".

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Delivering a smile in mining outposts