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Thursday, June 30, 2022

ADA admires Greens dental plan, but says first step should be to address elders’ oral health

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The Australian Dental Association has congratulated the Greens for addressing the seismic inadequacy in our dental health system, but it says that Adam Bandt’s dental pitch which will cost $8 bn a year or $77bn over a decade to provide Medicare funded dental services, will be a challenge for any government to implement.

“While we applaud the Greens for addressing this enormous problem, what’s important and financially more palatable for either election-winning party, as a first step, is to address the oral health travesties within the aged care system,” ADA president Dr Mark Hutton says.

It’s a massive problem, he says with a range issues affecting residents in aged care homes.

“Dentures left in for weeks, teeth not cleaned for days and sometimes weeks, broken teeth lacerating gums and tongues, extensive tooth decay, advanced gum disease fast-tracking the person to potentially fatal aspirational pneumonia, fillings falling out, pain, swelling and oral cancers in all stages [on it goes].

“It’s a horrific roll call of neglect.

“What if this was your mum or dad? Wouldn’t you want something done? This is the nation’s mums, dads, granddads and grandmums all lying there suffering pain, neglect, disease, trauma – and the current government is ignoring the issue, hoping it will go away.”

With its ‘Stop The Rot’ campaign, the ADA is urging the major parties to urgently adopt as part of their election promises and post-election health strategies these measures which will go a long way to fixing the immediate problems.

Here are the facts

The Royal Commission into Residential Aged Care heard evidence of the appalling state of dental and oral health in Australia’s residential aged care facilities.

There are nearly 190,000 of Australia’s most vulnerable people living in residential care. Many are suffering due to poor dental and oral health and a lack of access to appropriate services.

The recommendations from the royal commission’s report have been ignored.

Residents in aged care cannot access appropriate dental and oral care through the public dental system because it is patently underfunded.

The ADA is demanding all parties to ‘Stop The Rot’ by committing to three policy outcomes:

  • To fund direct access to public and private dental services that maintain the basic dental and oral healthcare standards in aged care facilities;
  • To deliver a training package to ensure that staff in aged care services are skilled to be able to care for residents daily oral health needs and to identify when dental services are required;
  • To include an oral health assessment in the over 75 health check performed by GPs.

“These policy outcomes are crucial for the health and well-being of residents in aged care but are immaterial in budgetary terms,” Hutton says.

“We hope the main parties realise what needs to be done and adopt our recommendations in their pre and post-election health strategies. After all, they will all be old one day too.”

Did you know:

  • 1 in 4 over 75s have teeth affected by decay
  • 1 in 3 aged 55-74 have untreated tooth decay and 1 in 4 in those aged over 75
  • 1 in 2 aged 55-74 years have periodontal or gum disease, rising to over 2 in 6 in the over 75s
  • 1 in 5 over 75 have complete tooth loss

To listen to ADA deputy CEO Eithne Irving chat about this on Adelaide radio, click here.

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