03.The dental crisis in Australia
Dental care in Australia is certainly not a pretty picture. At last count, up to 650,000 Australians were on public dental waiting lists. And of those who can supposedly afford it, plenty are struggling.
A recent report by IPSOS Australia revealed that:
- Almost two million people who needed to go the dentist in the past two years had put it off because they couldn’t afford it.
- Fifteen per cent of those with private health cover said they couldn’t afford the out-of-pocket expenses.
- The report projects more than 3.5 million Australians have not visited a dentist in the past four years.
- Cost issues are impacting those in middle income households and starting to impact high-earning households as well.
Unfortunately, putting off treatment isn’t the answer. In the long term, untreated dental problems can result in infections, abscesses and gum disease.
Serious dental problems can also lead to:
- Mouth infections can spread to lungs, blood and arteries.
- And then there’s the social stigma of having missing or rotten teeth.
Several years ago, the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission recommended a universal dental health scheme, Denticare.
But with an estimated cost of at least $5 billion, which was proposed to be raised largely by increasing the Medicare Levy, it will not be easy to get support for this.
The Greens are continuing to push for universal dental care, but both major parties have largely kept the issue off the agenda so far. “The high cost of dental care means that many Australians simply don’t go to the dentist,” says Greens senator and former GP Richard Di Natale.
“Price is one of the biggest barriers, and the current situation cannot be allowed to continue. We need a health system in this country that looks after all Australians from tooth to toe.”