Dentists rate highest on patient satisfaction but disadvantaged still miss out

ADA President Dr Karin Alexander
ADA President Dr Karin Alexander

Dentists have been rated as the health professional that patients are the most satisfied with when receiving treatment. The COAG Reform Council report on Healthcare in Australia confirms what the ADA has long advocated for: that government funding for dental care should be targeted to Australia’s most disadvantaged communities.

President of the Australian Dental Association, Dr Karin Alexander, said: “Australians continue to rate dental professionals the highest on the categories of listening carefully, showing respect and spending enough time with their patients. This confirms the quality of dental services provided by the profession. What is of concern is the finding that nearly one in four of our most disadvantaged citizens delayed seeing a dentist due to their disadvantage. The ADA has continually called on government to direct dental funding in a targeted manner to address the unmet needs of these Australians. The report’s findings confirm this is where government should focus its effort.

While the report said that socio-economic differences did not influence the proportion of Australians who could not see a GP due to cost access, this proportion tripled to 25.1% when it came to Australians from disadvantaged areas who could not see a dental practitioner.

By using the funding available under the National Partnership Agreements, States and Territories have recently been sending patients who are on public waiting lists to private dentists, using vouchers to cover the cost of care. Enabling private dentists to see these patients in a timely manner has reduced waiting lists. There is more than enough capacity in the private sector, that has been experiencing a considerable glut of dentist oversupply, who are available to service this demand. Every effort should be made by both the Federal Government and States and Territories to ensure these initiatives continue.

“The need to address the problem of Australians difficulties in accessing dental care was part of the first recommendation outlined by the COAG Reform Council. We hope all governments give this issue the same priority,” Dr Alexander concluded.

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