Budget measure: Improved dental health care

Dental care is one of the most overlooked sections of healthcare in Australia. Flossing once every day you can extend your life expectancy by up to two years – your teeth really do impact on your overall health.

Australia’s dental health has been in decline since past Prime Minister John Howard decided to get rid of the Commonwealth Dental Program in 1996. That was 16 years ago – an entire generation of children from low-income backgrounds have missed out on adequate dental care in this period.

Health economist Jeff Richardson has estimated that untreated dental problems cost Australia up to $2 billion per year in avoidable hospitalisations, health care costs and lost productivity.

The Government has this year promised to provide $1.3 billion to states and territories, starting 1 July 2014, under a new plan to expand services for adults in the public dental system. There are also other measures in place for children’s dental care and dental education.

Last year the Government created the Dental Waiting List NPA, to try and cope with the 400,000 adults currently on dental waiting lists. This new $1.3 billion is designed to build on the work already being undertaken.

Dental budget at a glance from the government Health and Ageing website

 

2011-12
$m

2012-13
$m

2013-14
$m

2014-15
$m

2015-16
$m

Total
$m

Dental Health

Dental Health – alleviating pressure on public dental waiting lists

70.0

155.8

120.0

345.9

Dental Health – increasing the capacity of the dental workforce

14.4

51.0

47.3

45.9

158.6

Dental Health – national oral health promotion activities

0.5

5.0

5.0

10.5

Dental Health – supporting the delivery of pro bono dental services

0.2

0.2

0.2

0.5

Dental Health – reallocation of Commonwealth Dental Health Program funding

-94.3

-96.7

-99.0

-290.0

Sub Total

-9.3

115.2

73.5

45.9

225.3

But is it enough? None of this funding is going to kick in for more than a year. There are still thousands of Australians waiting for dental care. In Victoria alone the waiting times for public dental care in the general sector are 16 months and that can extend to nearly 19 months if you need denture care.

I would like to see more being done to improve dental care for those who can’t afford it, especially those who fall into the gap between private health insurance and low-income earners.

What changes would you like to see to the budget in terms of dental care? Is enough being done?



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