Oral health of millions in the hands of government

3 June 2020

With current National Partnership Agreements (NPAs) on Public Dental Services for Adults due to end on June 30 and no sign of an extension, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) is urging the National Cabinet to renew the arrangements.

NPAs are funded by the Commonwealth and allow states and territories to increase services to eligible patients, either within their own facilities or outsource treatment of public patients to the private sector, where the public system cannot cope due to long waiting lists.

“If the NPA funding isn’t extended, we estimate around 720 patients a day, or 180,000 a year, will miss out on dental services they so badly need,” said ADA President Dr Carmelo Bonanno.

“This will result in waiting lists getting even longer, and people’s dental issues will get even worse as they wait years for treatment.

“The National Partnership Agreements expires on June 30 and as yet there’s no concrete plan for its continuation or replacement.

“Peak oral health bodies are calling on governments to extend the current agreement for two years to allow time for a national group of experts to be established to advise on a more permanent solution.”

ADA statistics show these agreements urgently need to be renewed: in March the ADA released the 2020 Oral Health Tracker which revealed Australia’s oral health is tracking in the wrong direction, with the prevalence of tooth decay and gum disease on the rise.

“Australia has one of the best health systems and approaches to public health measures in the world as we’ve just proven with our management of COVID-19,” said Dr Bonanno.

“The Cabinet has worked collaboratively on an agreement for public hospitals, now it must put that same strategy in place to manage funding for public dental care. Without this, the oral health of those eligible for public dentistry will decline.”

Further damning statistics from Australia's Oral Health Tracker revealed:

- a third of people eligible for public dental avoid certain foods/have difficulty chewing,
- a quarter of those eligible for public dental don’t have the teeth needed for their mouth to function properly. (Note:21 teeth is the threshold dentists use for the minimum number of teeth needed for the mouth to function efficiently.)
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