Teen dental clicks over a million

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Last week the government announced that over one million dental checks have left Aussie teens with brighter smiles as a result of the Gillard Government’s Medicare Teen Dental Program. But critics have pointed out that the program is a long way from reaching its initial targets.

The Medicare Teen Dental program was introduced by the previous Rudd government, with Medicare announcing that around 1.3 million teenagers aged 12-17 years, who met the program’s means test, would be sent a voucher for a preventative dental check.

The program began in July 2008, and now, after two and a half years, it finally appears to be coming close to reaching targets. In the past, critics of the scheme like Han Zoellner, from the Association for the Promotion of Oral Health, said the low take-up of teen dental ”reflects the fact that people correctly see little point in a scheme that tells them how bad their kids’ teeth are, but doesn’t do anything to help them if problems are found”.

Nonetheless, Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon and Human Services Minister Tanya Plibersek welcomed the release of the “milestone” figures from Medicare as proof that the Gillard Government is getting on with the job of delivering important health services to the community, and helping families meet the cost of dental care.

As at 31 October 2010, the Medicare Teen Dental Plan had provided 1,016,103 dental checks to teens aged 12-17 years who are receiving government benefits individually or as part of a family.

“The delivery of over one million services under the Teen Dental Program, shows that health reform is starting to make a difference on the ground,” Ms Roxon said.

“And the Medicare Teen Dental is providing significant financial relief to families with teenagers,” Ms Plibersek said.

The Government reminded young people who haven’t had a check-up to make an appointment before the end of the year as vouchers are only valid for a single calendar year.

“Families with eligible teenagers should have already received their dental voucher in the mail and should take it, along with their Medicare card, to the dentist and get a check-up,” Ms Plibersek said.

“We want to kick start a lifetime habit of regular dental checks to reduce the risk of major dental problems later in life,” Ms Roxon said.

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