Dental funding should target those in genuine need

The Greens Denticare scheme would be infective in providing long-term solutions to the needy, including older Australians.


The Greens’ announcement calling for the introduction of their universal dental health scheme, Denticare, is an idea which will not effectively or efficiently provide for those Australians that are in genuine need of quality dental care.


While the Australian Dental Association Inc. (ADA) agrees with the Greens that the state of oral health of Australians needs to be improved, a universal dental scheme is not the way to achieve it.


“It is universally accepted that about 30-35% of the population experience difficulty accessing dental care.


Instead of providing a universal dental scheme that will provide only basic short-term solutions to those that access it, what is needed is a targeted scheme that will provide an effective long-term solution to those that can’t access dental care now”; ADA President Dr Shane Fryer said.


“Currently 65% of the Australian population are able to access dental care. The introduction of a universal dental scheme won’t properly look after the needy but will mean that these 65% of Australians that already access basic government-funded care will be able to ‘top-up’ on dental services through their own funding.


Under the Denticare proposal needy Australians will not have access to long-term effective dental health solutions that should be available to all Australians – this is not the way to deal with the real problem.”


The ADA has proposed an alternative scheme called DentalAccess, which would target funding and thus cost less than the Greens’ proposed Denticare scheme.


DentalAccess will ensure access to quality dental care to those Australians that are currently experiencing difficulty; targeting disadvantaged Australians such as Indigenous Australians, the chronically ill, older Australians both at at home and in particular in assisted accommodation, and special needs patients.


The 30-35% of Australians that have difficulty accessing dental care tend to have more protracted oral health problems and are therefore in greater need of public funds. DentalAccess is designed to provide more equitable access to care without subsidising those that can already access care.


“The Green’s proposal seeks to have Medicare cover limited preventative and restorative dental treatment. However, these are only stop-gap measures that will ultimately require repeated treatment and not provide effective long-term dental solutions to those that are in need.


Calls for Denticare-type options are too simplistic to address the real needs of those that can’t access dental care.”


“Universal schemes have been tried elsewhere and have ended up providing inadequate dentistry to disadvantaged people, along with subsidised care to those that already access care.”


The ADA is calling on government to properly target the funding of effective dental care to those that can’t access it now, so we have equitable access to this care for all Australians.


8 November 2011.