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Recognition a reason to smile

Young Tasmanian dentist Dr Jessica Manuela has many reasons to smile.

Jessica was named Tasmanian Young Australian of the Year 2018 for being a dentist helping Indigenous communities by developing a scheme with the Royal Flying Doctors Service and the South Eastern Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation to treat indigenous adults in her private practice.

The announcement that Jessica was Tasmanian Young Australian of the Year 2018 followed other significant awards.

In 2017, Jessica won the Telstra Tasmanian Business Women’s Award Young Business Owner category.  She also received the Premier’s Tasmanian Young Achiever Award and the Tasmanian Young Achiever Award St LukesHealth Healthier Communities Award.

In 2014, at the age of 26, Jessica opened her own clinic, Dental South.  Now, Jessica has two dental clinics, employs 12 people, and cares for over 4,000 patients.

Jessica’s passion for dental health extends beyond her practice by providing oral health education to over eight schools.

A desire to improve dental health statewide inspired Jessica to develop a cartoon infomercial to try and ensure Tasmanians have equal access to some basic information on oral health.

“Poor dental health affects overall health and can make you really sick,” Jessica said. “Dental infections are the number one reason why children are hospitalized for general anaesthetic. More than 50% of all six-year-olds experience tooth decay. This is unacceptable.”

The awards have been a humbling experience for Jessica and presented further opportunities to raise awareness about the importance of oral health. Jessica receives public speaking invitations to visit schools, nursing homes, International Women’s Day, and Indigenous groups about her story.

"Receiving recognition has been encouraging to continue working towards making changes in oral health Australia wide.  When you put your heart into something, you don't expect to receive awards but it certainly is motivating and opens up opportunities. I encourage all young people to fight for what you believe in as you may be helping not only your cause but others around you more than you realise."