22 June 2023
THE AUSTRALIAN DENTAL ASSOCIATION (ADA) has welcomed the release of the interim report on dentistry in Australia by the Senate Committee taking a close look at dental services.
While the final report is not due out until the end of the year, the ADA welcomes the inquiry into public dentistry and the release of its interim findings.
“We’re delighted to see the Senate Committee recognises the need for system-wide reform,” said the ADA’s Deputy CEO Eithne Irving. “It is long overdue that the Government took decisive steps to resolve the appalling oral health of millions of Australians.”
In its detailed submission to the inquiry in May, the ADA pressed for the Committee to consider its blueprint for the delivery and funding of dental care, the Australian Dental Health Plan (ADHP).
“The ADA’s Plan which includes the proposal for a Senior Dental Benefits Scheme (SDBS) that has the support of not only the Royal Commission into Aged Care but also many aged care groups, provides a targeted path to increasing access to dental care,“ Ms Irving said.
The ADA believes that the legislative framework under the Dental Benefits Act which is already in place for the Child Dental Benefits Schedule, could be used to establish similar schemes like the SDBS without needing to revise the Medicare legislation which is cumbersome and difficult to amend swiftly.
“The CDBS already operates as if it was running under Medicare but the legislation that allows it to operate is much easier to amend and expand for introducing new schemes. Government doesn’t need to wait - it could act now.”
Other ADA’s recommendations it made to the inquiry include:
1.Using the extensive private clinic infrastructure to provide more widespread public dental services.
2. Extending availability of preventive services available under the Child Dental Benefits Schedule, including eligibility for in-hospital services provided under general anaesthesia.
3. Supporting state and local governments to extend access to fluoridated water to more Australian communities with reticulated water supplies.
4. Introducing a health levy on sugary drinks to incentivise reduced consumption and potentially provide funding for additional programs.
Note to editors: ADA’s Dental Health Plan attached to release.
Oral health basics:
*Dental decay is the most common noncommunicable disease worldwide, and Australia’s most prevalent health problem. This condition was associated with spending of $4.5 billion in Australia in 2019-20.
* Overall, $11.1 billion was spent on dental services in 2020–21 ($432 per capita).
* Dental problems are largely preventable. By practising preventive measures and seeking timely dental care, people can significantly reduce dental problems, making the demand for services less.
* Failure to prevent dental problems can result in significant personal and societal costs – including pain, discomfort, and decreased quality of life for individuals – and economic burdens such as lost productivity, and increased healthcare expenses for society.