Seniors’ dental scheme must have expert input

A proposed scheme allowing older Australians to finally access affordable dental treatment must have the full input from dental practitioners and other key stakeholders, a coalition of peak oral health advocates has warned.


"Too many older Australians are suffering due to their oral care being neglected," Australian Dental Association New South Wales (ADA NSW) President Dr Kathleen Matthews said. "More than six out of 10 over-75s in Australia suffer from gum disease1, while more than one in three Australians aged 75 and over have complete tooth loss2.


"One in two Australian adults aged 65-74 don't visit their dentist every 12 months as recommended3 and poor oral care for Australians has been estimated to cost $750m a year4.


“It’s terrific that the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety heard proposals for a Seniors Dental Benefits Schedule (SDBS), but the Federal Government must back up a scheme like this to ensure its success. For example, only about a third of eligible Australian children currently access the Child Dental Benefits Schedule due to inadequate promotion and community understanding of the scheme. We would hate to see this happen to the elderly.


“Any SDBS must be modelled on value-based care and developed in consultation with dental practitioners, experienced in the provision of care for the elderly and co-designed with older Australians and their families, aged care providers and the government.”


ADA NSW and key oral health advocates have also responded in a joint final submission to proposals made by Counsel Assisting the Commission to improve the oral health of older Australians.


“We welcome the proposal to expand outreach oral health services in Australian care homes,” Dr Matthews said. “Too many older Australians in care are missing out on oral care which is affecting their overall health and contributing to serious conditions such as excruciating dental pain and secondary conditions such as malnutrition and the risk of pneumonia.


"The dental profession is committed to providing these services to the Australian community and has successful models of care operating within NSW and the ACT, such as the Senior Smiles program, that with adequate support can become standard practice.


"Oral health is a basic human right. We must ensure that older Australians can live free from oral pain and be able to gain adequate nutrition, communicate freely and have the best possible quality of life.”


The full final submission to the Commission can be read at



2 As above




11 December 2020.