Bad mouth—the neglected reality

preventive oral health care
Photo: Wavebreak Media Ltd – 123rf

The Dental Hygienists Association of Australia recently released a paper, ‘Bad Mouth – The neglected reality’, to support equitable and affordable dental healthcare for all Australians.

“For generations, our country has neglected oral health and dental services despite evidence indicating they are closely linked to general health and wellbeing,” DHAA president Cheryl Dey said. 

“Historically, dentistry adopts a treatment-dominated, invasive and high-tech approach to care that is often expensive.” 

One in five Australians delay or choose not to see a dental practitioner due to cost. Australian consumers pay 58 per cent of their dental costs out of pocket compared to just 12 per cent for pharmaceutical—and only 11 per cent for medical expenses. This disparity in government funding has put regular oral health care out of reach of many.

Dental hygienists, oral health therapists and dental therapists are an under-utilised, yet powerful workforce that could improve the current undesirable situation. These oral health professionals have a preventative and health-promotion focus, and should be a key driving force to combat the neglect of oral health and dental services for all Australians. 

“Our members are keen and ready to reach out to rural and remote locations, residential aged care facilities and deliver preventative care and early intervention to fill the service gaps,” Dey said.

“The public’s access to these preventive services is blocked if they wish to utilise their entitlements via government schemes for veterans (DVA) and children (CDBS), or their private health insurance.

“Dental hygienists, oral health therapists and dental therapists are among the very few health professional groups that do not have Medicare provider numbers.”

DHAA therefore calls on the Federal Government to issue dental hygienists, oral health therapists and dental therapists with a Medicare provider number to ensure public access to these preventive oral health care services in an equitable way. 

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