The Australian Dental Association (ADA) has congratulated The Greens for including oral health in their ‘balance of power’ shortlist in the event of a minority party parliament.
“We have seen previously how The Greens were instrumental with the ALP and the ADA in bringing to fruition the Child Dental Benefits Schedule in 2014, and we hope that they will heed the advice of the ADA and introduce a similar scheme for older Australians as a first but urgent step as part of their oral health policy commitment,” deputy CEO Eithne Irving said.
“It is a position the ADA has been trumpeting for many years.”
The ADA believes that one of the reasons no government has ever adopted dental into Medicare is because of the cost — The Greens have costed it as $77bn over a decade, starting with a spend of $7.5bn from July 2023 and a further $7.5bn the following financial year.
“With so many pressures on the public purse, no government has ever prioritised this,” Irving said.
“Yet the knock-on effect of untreated oral health issues to other parts of the health system, including urgent dental problems presenting at emergency departments, is huge.
“For example, around ten in every 1000 children hospitalised are due to a dental condition.
“The hidden cost to Medicare from patients seeking care from their GP likewise, has been estimated to be up to $300 million per year.
“The ADA’s plan to start smaller within residential aged care and incrementally fix the broken oral healthcare system is far more acceptable and will save money in the health system in the long term but more importantly, improve the health and wellbeing of one of our most vulnerable populations.”
Shocking ADA data reveals:
- 32 per cent of those aged 55-74 years and 25 per cent of those aged 75+ years have untreated tooth decay,
- 51 per cent of those aged 55-74 years and 69 per cent of those aged 75+ years have gum disease,
- where the gum disease hasn’t been treated, this resulted in complete tooth loss for 20 per cent of those aged 75+ years,
- 22 per cent of those aged 55-74 years and 46 per cent of those aged 75+ years have inadequate dentition (less than 21 teeth)
“We could go a long way to fixing the issues reflected in these appalling statistics by funding direct access to public and private dental services in aged care facilities through a Seniors Dental Benefits Schedule,” Irving added.
“[We could] as well include clinical indicators for oral health in the Aged Care Quality Standards, add core units of study on oral health in the Cert III in Aged Care to ensure staff in aged care services can provide basic oral care, and add oral health to the over 75s health assessments done by GPs.
“Let’s see what happens when the next government is in place — we remain optimistic some of these measures will be adopted.”