More Medicare-funded dental care is needed for pensioners, children and welfare recipients, says Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff, who today is presenting a motion to increase publicly funded dental care.
Senator Griff has the support of the Australian Dental Association (ADA).
“The ADA applauds the Senator for his motion due to be tabled today, seeking to increase publicly funded dental care and improve ‘shocking rates of preventable oral health disease and hospital admissions’,” said ADA president Dr Carmelo Bonanno.
“Senator Griff has rightly identified that many Australians are desperate for dental care and are unable to access care even if they’re eligible for public dental services.
“It’s time that all levels of government and the dental profession work together on more sustainable funding models. Currently, states are unsure whether there will be even Commonwealth funding for public dental waiting lists past June 2020.
“We need a commitment to extend the current national partnership on public dental funding while other options are considered.”
Nine in 10 older Australians want the government to introduce a universal dental care scheme, according to a YourLifeChoices survey, with more than 60 per cent of those surveyed saying they would vote for a party that promised to deliver such a scheme.
YourLifeChoices research also found that only 41 per cent of respondents visit a dentist annually – figures matched by ADA research, which also revealed that only four in 10 Australians have a favourable visiting pattern (to a dentist).
The National Oral Health Plan 2015-24 identified that more than 90 per cent of adults and 40 per cent of young children have experienced tooth decay.
“Poor oral health is a significant contributor to poor overall health where patients who live with long-term pain suffer severe and often catastrophic consequences,” says the ADA.
“More than 72,000 Australians are hospitalised annually due to preventable oral health conditions.
“More than three times as many Australians put off going to the dentist when compared to visiting the doctor.”
Dr Bonanno questions why oral health funding doesn’t receive the same treatment as health funding for the rest of the body.
“We have a successful model in the Child Dental Benefits Schedule, it’s now time to extend this model to other groups in the community such as the elderly and those on low incomes. The ADA has been asking successive federal governments for years to consider the Australian Dental Health Plan as a blueprint for action,” said Dr Bonanno.
“Senator Griff’s motion is a welcome boost to our ongoing campaign we’ve been fighting on many fronts in order to bring about this change in thinking in Canberra. Targeted funding that supports those people who are often least likely to attend a dentist regularly is sorely needed if we’re to improve Australians’ oral health.”
The ADA’s Australian Dental Health Plan is available at www.ada.org.au/ADHP
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