The nation’s oral health has yet again shown to be of no importance to the Morrison Government with scant mention of it made in last night’s 2022 pre-election Budget, according to the Australian Dental Association (ADA).
The failure to address the declining oral health of many older, poor and disadvanataged Australians in the Treasurer’s speech, the ADA said, does not bode well for it to be addressed in May’s Federal election either.
“This is a very disappointing outcome when we know that thousands of people have to wait years to get a dental appointment in the public system,” ADA CEO Damian Mitsch said.
“Also, there are large numbers of Australians including those in residential aged care, those on Level 4 Homecare Packages, those from socially and economically challenged backgrounds and Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander populations for whom dental care is unaffordable.
“The ADA has put to successive governments and to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety our plan to fix the inequity in oral care between those who can afford their own dental care and those who have to wait years in the public system.”
While National Partnership Agreements were once again extended in the Budget to ensure public dental services for another year or two, this is a Band-aid measure for a broken system, the ADA said.
The solution to the funding crisis in dental care for older Australians and which was agreed upon by Aged Care Commissioners in their final report to Government, is the adoption, the ADA said, of its Seniors Dental Benefits Schedule (SDBS) to make dentistry affordable to older Australians.
The SDBS would fund dental services for people in residential care and older people who live in the community and receive the aged pension.
“If the Government adopted the SDBS, it would mean funding dental care for older Australians as well as some fundamental systems finally being put into place to ensure better dental care for residential and home care residents,” Mitsch said.
The ADA claimed glaring inadequacies of the aged care sector result in residents going for days without anyone brushing their teeth and/or dentures, painful oral conditions remaining untreated for long periods, insufficient visits from dental staff, and a lack of training in oral healthcare by time-poor staff.
“Our plea to look at this solution has yet to be taken up by a political party with the foresight to see that investment in the nation’s oral health now, saves the public purse billions of dollars further down the track – from presentations at hospital emergency departments for people no longer able to withstand the pain in their mouths, right through to the knock-on effects of poor oral health on the rest of the body including cardiac events, Type 2 diabetes and poor pregnancy outcomes.”
In the run-up to the Federal election, the ADA has put a series of oral health questions to the four main parties to ascertain their oral health policies.
Their responses will form ‘Report Cards’ on how their plans to fix our ailing oral health system measure up.
“These responses and our members’ reactions to them, will be sent to MPs in members’ constituencies and to the media, to ensure that the main parties’ oral health policies – or lack of them – are known to everyone,” Mitsch added.
“That way people vote with their eyes wide open in full knowledge of which party has prioritised oral health.”