A DENTAL report released last month backs an urgent need for a step up of CPSA’s campaign for dental care to be included within Medicare.
Pensioners and others from lower socioeconomic groups are the most disadvantaged by the underfunding of public dental services.
They are likely to have fewer teeth, more decay and suffer greater social impacts on their quality of life as a result of poor oral health.
The National Advisory Council on Dental Health, which commissioned the report, points out that the number of missing teeth increases with age, as does gum disease and dental decay.
Those over 65 are bearing the brunt of dental problems. They are also the age group most likely to be on lower, fixed incomes and less able to pay the exorbitant fees of private dentists.
In particular, those in residential care and people with disability can have special oral health needs and the report highlights that this needs specific attention.
CPSA agrees that it is crucial that dental health care be seen as an integral part of general health care.
Dental care has been regarded as secondary for too long. Australia has one of the lowest standards of oral health among OECD countries.
While CPSA has welcomed the recommendations put forward in the dental report, we would like to see a clearer outline on how the report’s long term goal of universal access will be achieved, particularly in light of the measly $165 million the Government has pledged.
The current public dental system is so minimal that it equates to inadequate dentistry for poor people and this needs to change.
Australian Government expenditure on dental services is currently only 16% of all expenditure, while State and Local Governments foot the bill for 8%.
Individuals fork out 62% of the costs and health insurance funds pay for 14%.
There are also large differences between expenditure among states.
While the Tasmanian Government spends $46.33 per person on dental care, New South Wales spends the lowest in the country on a per person basis at $21.53.
In addition to this inequity, the report shows that overlaps and duplications between State and Federal services are causing inefficiencies.
The cost of poor oral health to the Australian economy is between $1.3 billion and $2 billion annually making it clear that the Australian Government cannot afford to continue under funding dental care.
The two tiered system in which pensioners and low income Australians go without or receive inferior dental treatment needs to go.
Please join the campaign by signing our petition ‘Save Australia’s Teeth: Make Universal Dental Care a Reality’ online at http://bit.ly/xUqvDl