Dental Tribune Asia Pacific

Australian elections bring oral health into focus

MELBOURNE, Australia: With the Australian elections only a few days away, many areas of societal concerns have been brought into focus, one of which is dental care. The Australian Labor Party has pledged millions to oral healthcare for low-income older Australians if elected. In response, Australian dentists have now called on all political parties to address the inequality in the country’s dental system by making access to dental care throughout the nation a right and not a privilege.

Leading the push for greater equality in oral healthcare access, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) has voiced the pressing need for all major parties to make drastic changes to an unequal system that deprives many Australians of regular dental care.

That need was highlighted by recent figures released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, according to which the number of potentially preventable hospitalisations related to dental conditions was over 70,000 in 2016/17. Other statistics showed that 42 per cent of children aged between 5 and 10 experienced caries in their primary teeth, and people over 15 typically had around 12.8 decayed, missing or filled teeth.

Regarding the state of Australians’ oral health, ADA Federal President Dr Carmelo Bonanno said, “The nation is divided into the haves with the good teeth and the have-nots with the poor teeth. This is a First World country, and this should not be happening.”

Aside from voicing concern, the ADA has highlighted four key points that it believes need to be addressed:

  • the improvement of the level of funding to meet the oral health needs of people on low incomes or who are socially disadvantaged;
  • the need for a Commonwealth dental benefits scheme for older Australians, similar to the Child Dental Benefits Schedule;
  • future-proofing of the National Partnership Agreement on Public Dental Services for Adults, a long-term commitment to earmark sufficient funds to reduce public waiting lists; and
  • the prohibition of differential rebates for the same treatments.

“We believe that if a future government seriously considers and introduces these targeted, sustainable and cost-effective measures, it will go a long way to addressing the huge gaps in access and need for millions of Australians every year,” explained Bonanno.

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