High hopes for new health minister


The peak national body for the dental profession has urged the new Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to consult closely with the dental profession to help improve Australia’s oral health.

“Australians’ dental health is falling behind. More than three out of 10 younger children have decay in their baby teeth and over four out of 10 children in their early teens have decay in their permanent teeth,” said Australian Dental Association (ADA) president Dr Hugo Sachs.

“Reducing the Child Dental Benefits Schedule annual cap from $1,000 to $700 is simply penny-pinching which will hit the poorest families the most and not improve the oral health for the most vulnerable of Australians. The ADA is ready to work closely with Minister Hunt to develop a way to ensure that the scheme can sustainably still continue to provide quality care to children.”

Equally of concern to the ADA are ongoing reports showing that over 65,000 Australians have been hospitalised for potentially preventable dental conditions each year.

“This is putting additional strain on our public hospital system unnecessarily,” Dr Sachs said, adding that Hunt’s appointment also provides an opportunity for the government to reinvigorate dental health policy.

“The ADA is hopeful that alongside the Australian Government’s plans to reform the pricing and funding of prostheses, Minister Hunt will take a closer look at general treatment (extras) policies,” he said.

“Bringing policy holders’ out-of-pocket costs under better control by ending the decades-long practice of private health insurers imposing discriminatory rebates that punish policy holders who choose to maintain continuity of care and go to their dentist of choice, who happens to not be contracted to a private health insurer, must be on the Minister’s agenda.”

Dr Sachs concluded: “It is becoming increasingly clear that overall health is related to good oral health. Should Minister Hunt start to lay down the foundations for dental health reform in conjunction with the dental profession, the flow-on effects will extend beyond dental health.”

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