Australia’s Dentists launch the Australian Dental Health Plan

8 February 2016

Australians overall have good dental health, when compared to similar OECD countries, however there are target groups which continue to have substantial unmet dental health needs. These target groups include children, adults and the aged from low socioeconomic backgrounds; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, those from rural and remote areas and people with special needs.

Today, Australia’s dentists, through their peak body, the Australian Dental Association (ADA), have launched the Australian Dental Health Plan (ADHP).

Presenting the ADHP as part of the 2016-17 Pre-Budget Submission process to the Australian Government Department of Treasury, President of the ADA Dr Rick Olive AM RFD, said, “The ADA is proud to launch the Australian Dental Health Plan. The Plan provides a comprehensive framework for how the Australian Government can most effectively help target populations get the dental care they need. This Plan will improve these Australians’ dental health which is a key component of enhancing their general health as well.”

While the majority of Australians are able to access dental care, the upcoming 2016-17 federal budget provides the opportunity for the Australian Government to tackle gaps in oral health outcomes such as:

  • More than half of six year old children have experienced tooth decay in their baby teeth and nearly half of 12 year olds have experienced some tooth decay in their permanent teeth;
  • Around three in ten Australian adults have untreated tooth decay;
  • Low income households have a much higher prevalence of toothache, periodontal disease, tooth decay, and missing teeth;
  • Australians from non-metropolitan areas were much more likely to have untreated decay (37.6% in remote/very remote areas compared to 23.5% in major cities);
  • Over half of Australians over the age of 65 years have gum disease or periodontitis. Almost 20% of Australians over the age of 65 years have complete tooth loss; and
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are 150% more likely to be hospitalised for potentially preventable dental conditions compared to non-Indigenous Australians.1
  • The Plan seeks to replicate the success of the Child Dental Benefits Schedule across the 30% of Australians who have challenges accessing the dental care they need.1

The Plan proposes that similar schemes be developed over time to target various sectors of the community who have difficulty accessing dental care. The ADA proposes there be commensurate additional assistance provided to account for regional locality as well as those who have special needs or are from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

Parallel to these dental schemes the ADHP envisages dentists working in conjunction with the Australian Government to provide oral health promotion and education campaigns to improve oral health through reduced tobacco use and improved dietary habits including reducing the consumption of sugary and acidic foods.

The Plan also urges the Australian Government to work with the dental profession as well as the States and Territories to ensure fluoridation of reticulated water supplies in all localities with 1,000 or more residents across Australia. This is the most cost effective manner in which to reduce the prevalence of dental caries. For each $1 invested in water fluoridation, there is $67 in estimated savings in future dental costs alone.

Dr Olive concluded: “We urge the Australian Government to commit to adopting the Australian Dental Health Plan. The upcoming 2016-17 Federal Budget is the perfect opportunity to start this journey”.
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