ACOSS applauds major reform to nationally coordinated dental care

29 August 2012

ACOSS has applauded today’s dental announcement by the Federal Government and welcomed its dual focus on children and on those adults most disadvantaged in access to appropriate dental care.

“Today’s announcement secures adequate dental care for two-thirds of the children in Australia, many of whom would go without regular dental care otherwise. We are delighted the Government has recognised how crucial it is to establish and maintain good oral health from childhood by establishing an entitlement to access adequate and timely care,” said ACOSS CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie.

ACOSS also welcomes the commitment to meet the oral health needs of adults experiencing poverty and inequality who have gone without dental care for too long. “By ensuring affordable appropriate and timely dental care for people on the aged or disability pension and all those with a health care card, this reform establishes the policies and funding mechanisms to reduce a major area of health inequality in Australia,” Dr Goldie said.

“Many people on low incomes have been forced to rely on an over-stretched and under-resourced public dental system and have suffered terrible pain and deteriorating oral health as a result. This agreement will ensure that not only are public dental waiting lists addressed, but people on low incomes are able to access the routine and preventive treatment that everyone needs to ensure healthy mouths and lives.”

Deputy CEO Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine, who was a member of the National Advisory Council on Dental Health stated, “ACOSS has long-championed the importance of a national approach to dental care that recognises how critical good oral health is, not just for general health but for social and economic participation.

“We hear often from people too embarrassed to go to job interviews or engage with their communities because of their teeth. That’s why we have been calling for many years for access to a basic course of treatment every two years as a minimum standard of oral health for everyone in Australia. This reform will be foundational in improving the oral health of the population through a significant entitlement to children, without leaving behind those adults who for too long have missed out on adequate dental care.

“We cannot improve our nation’s oral health without addressing the distribution of the oral health and allied workforce, including dentists, dental therapists and dental hygienists and health therapists. Equally important is national leadership of sustained investments in oral health promotion. Today’s announcement establishes a policy framework and sustained funding to address both.

“We will also see that the excellent work already being done in some states and territories through child and public dental systems will be sustained across Australia. The recognition of an entitlement to good dental care is a major breakthrough for those millions of Australians, some 40%, who have been going without adequate, appropriate and timely dental care.

“But no amount of federal funding can address Australia’s gaping oral health gaps without state and territory governments maintaining, and in some cases improving their investment in oral. We call on all governments to work together to ensure Australia at last can build a national oral health system,” Dr Boyd-Caine concluded.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155