The University of Queensland says dozens of children are missing out each week on the chance to have free dental work, like chairs in its $134 million oral health tertiary centre sit empty.
The Herston center, which replaced a Turbot Street site in the CBD after 73 years, is used to train dental and oral health students who perform dental work for the public.
Most of the services provided at the UQ Oral Health Centre are free, and there is a waiting list of up to six months for adults.
However the take-up rate for children has been underwhelming, UQ Bachelor of Oral Health program coordinator Andrea Maguire said.
She said the school lost many of its regular child patients after an initiative with a Queensland Health dental facility in Yeronga ended in 2014.
Ms Maguire said the university was hoping to see about 70 children between the ages of 3 and 17 each week.
Services on offer include examinations, x-rays, fillings, extractions, stainless steel crowns, cleaning, polishing and fluoride applications.
“The students are very well supervised by registered dentists and oral health therapists,” Ms Maguire said.
“Generally speaking, [children’s teeth] are not in good health. It’s certainly not as good as we’d like to to be, that’s for sure.”
A Queensland Health survey of more than 5000 children taken between 2010 and 2012 found one in three children under six had never been to the dentist.
The survey also showed half of the children aged between 5 and 10 had decay in their primary teeth, and only three quarters of all children brushed their teeth twice a day.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one third of Australians aged between 25 and 44 have untreated tooth decay, and about a third had not visited the dentist in the last 12 months.