Dental peak body slams Canberra for doing nothing to fix endemic problem 

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The Federal Government has run out of excuses for not fixing the broken dental system, says the Australian Dental Association. 

With millions walking around with untreated tooth decay, waiting lists for public dental years long, and vulnerable groups suffering and in terrible pain for lengthy periods due to lack of access and affordability, a complete overhaul of the dental system is beyond overdue.  

When the ADA president Dr Stephen Liew addresses the Senate Inquiry into dental access this Friday (20 October), he won’t be sugar-coating the message from the nation’s dentists. 

“The Albanese Government came to power on promises of fixing access to dentistry so more people had access to more services,” Dr Liew said.  

“Before they were elected, Labor said that their goal was to ‘provide universal access to affordable dental services for all Australians, and an elected Labor Government will engage a consultative process with all relevant stakeholders to begin this work.’  

“Yet 17 months later absolutely nothing has happened. The ADA and the nation’s dentists couldn’t be more disappointed and frustrated. Our patience and that of millions of long-suffering Australians, is wearing thin.”  

The ADA worked closely with the Gillard Government and the Greens in setting up the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) in 2014 so kids under 18 whose parents receive a Commonwealth benefit, get $1056 in dental treatment every two years. 

“The infrastructure and the legislation is there to introduce additional dental schemes—so what’s holding the Health Minister up in instigating a similar scheme for seniors, followed by other ones for our most vulnerable groups?” Dr Liew said.

“When we ask to meet with the Minister to push for these changes, he remains unavailable!” 

Costings supplied by the Treasury show that at $77.6b a decade, the cost of putting mouths into Medicare is prohibitively expensive for most governments. However, instigating smaller schemes like the one the ADA designed for those in aged care, its Seniors Dental Benefits Schedule, would cost just a fraction of that at $100m a year.   

Once that is set up, schemes for other vulnerable and disadvantaged groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, people with a disability and those on low incomes, could easily follow.  

“It’s a simple, straightforward strategy which provides a road map for the future, whilst initially improving the oral health of Australians who need it most,” Dr Liew said.

“It’s better to provide decent care to vulnerable groups than spread the dollars out too thin and give everyone very basic care that wouldn’t cover anything beyond the occasional check-up every few years. 

“The simple blueprint is to expand the current CDBS model to priority populations. The question is: why hasn’t the current Government set this up already?” 

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