ADA accuses government of not taking seriously Australia’s oral health 

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Australian federal budget oral health
Photo: marigranula 123rf

The Australian Dental Association has expressed dismay that the nation’s oral health seems to be of no importance to the Morrison government with scant mention of it made in the 2022 pre-election budget. The concern is that failing to address the declining oral health of many older, poor and disadvantaged Australians suggests it won’t be addressed in May’s federal election either.

“This is a very disappointing outcome when we know that thousands of people have to wait years to get a dental appointment in the public system,” ADA CEO Damian Mitsch said.

“Also, there are large numbers of Australians including those in residential aged care, those on Level 4 Homecare Packages, those from socially and economically challenged backgrounds and Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander populations for whom dental care is unaffordable.

“The ADA has put to successive governments and to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety our plan to fix the inequity in oral care between those who can afford their own dental care and those who have to wait years in the public system.”

While National Partnership Agreements were once again extended in the budget to ensure public dental services for another year or two, the ADA says this is a bandaid measure for a broken system.

The solution to the funding crisis in dental care for older Australians and which was agreed upon by Aged Care Commissioners in their final report to government, is the adoption of the ADA’s Seniors Dental Benefits Schedule (SDBS) to make dentistry affordable to older Australians. The SDBS would fund dental services for people in residential care and older people who live in the community and receive the aged pension.

“If the government adopted the SDBS, it would mean funding dental care for older Australians as well as some fundamental systems finally being put into place to ensure better dental care for residential and home care residents,” Mitsch said.

Glaring inadequacies of the aged care sector result in residents going for days without anyone brushing their teeth and/or dentures, painful oral conditions remaining untreated for long periods, insufficient visits from dental staff, and a lack of training in oral healthcare by time-poor staff.

In the run-up to the federal election, the ADA has put a series of oral health questions to the four main parties to ascertain their oral health policies. Their responses will form ‘Report Cards’ on how their plans to fix the ailing oral health system measure up.

Mitsch added: “These responses and our members’ reactions to them, will be sent to MPs in members’ constituencies and to the media, to ensure that the main parties’ oral health policies—or lack of them—are known to everyone.

“That way people vote with their eyes wide open in full knowledge of which party has prioritised oral health.”

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