Rita Rodgers retires after more than 40 years as a dental therapist in Moree

Retiring Moree Hospital dental clinic therapist Rita Rodgers with Edward and Clare Montgomery on her last day of work. Photo: Haley Caccianiga

Retiring Moree Hospital dental clinic therapist Rita Rodgers with Edward and Clare Montgomery on her last day of work. Photo: Haley Caccianiga

After more than 40 years of providing dental care to Moree's children and adolescents, Rita Rodgers is calling it a day.

The Moree Hospital dental clinic therapist will officially retire on July 26, after 41 years of working in Moree.

Mrs Rodgers moved to Moree as a dental therapist in January, 1979, originally working out of the clinic at Moree Public School for 15 years before transferring to Moree Hospital, where she's remained ever since.

Before coming to Moree, she spent a few months working at a migrant hospital in Sydney as a fresh graduate which she said helped pave the way for her move to Moree. Mrs Rodgers also did a short stint at Tamworth prior to starting at Moree.

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As a dental therapist, Mrs Rodgers would provide restorative and preventive dental services to children, adolescents and teenagers. This included general dental fillings and extractions, X-rays, injections and fluoride treatments to children under the age of 18.

"We want to see them before they have problems; that's important," Mrs Rodgers said.

"If you can get that across to them how important oral health is and you can see a difference, that can be fabulous."

However, it can be frustrating at times, Mrs Rodgers said.

"When I first came to Moree I did lots and lots of extractions," she said.

"Things have eased up a bit, but the takeaway food business and the high consumption of soft drinks, has not been good [for children's teeth]."

Over the years, Mrs Rodgers has clocked up hundreds of thousands of kilometres, doing mobile clinics at Wee Waa, Warialda, Boggabilla and Mungindi once a week.

A big part of the job early on was also yearly school visits, however that has dissolved with time.

"I really miss that," Mrs Rodgers said.

"I got to know the schools and got to know the teachers and students. I used to do a lot of dental health education, but not as much as we used to."

One of the major changes during her 41 years in the dental industry has been the transfer from paper files to computer programming, while there have also been many shifts within the health system.

But the most enjoyable part of the job for Mrs Rodgers was the people she's worked with over the years.

"I worked with Dr Michael Kelly, who is now retired," Mrs Rodgers said.

"He was a mentor when I first came to Moree. If I had any issues or if I needed to ask something, he was always there. He left his own practice and came to work at the hospital with me; he was fabulous.

"I now work with Eric Dumas who is really great. I've also had some fabulous dental assistants during my career. They've all been really good support."

Having finished up work in February, Mrs Rodgers said the people are what she's missed most since she's been on leave.

"I miss working with other people and I miss seeing the parents, who I got to know well," she said.

"A lot of the parents I used to treat when they were kids. I've had some lovely families and the kids have been fabulous.

"I still go in for morning tea every now and then, but I miss that friendship with everyone."

Moree Hospital will hold a farewell morning tea for Mrs Rodgers this Thursday, July 16 before she officially retires at the end of the month.

Since finishing work, Mrs Rodgers said she's been enjoying spending time at home on the farm, with horse work keeping her busy.

"I've worked 40 years, so now I can have 40 to do what I like," she said.

"You realise there is a life outside of work. I think I'm busier now than I was at work. There's not enough days in the week."