A stronger, more targeted approach to oral health care for the long-term

29 August 2012

Today’s dental spend announcement from Tanya Plibersek goes a long way towards meeting the Government’s commitment to better oral health care and an improved status for oral health in Australia. And it is good to see continued recognition of the fact that people in rural and remote areas are among the most under-served when it comes to oral health.

By deciding to redirect much of its own current oral health expenditures to children, the Federal Government will make itself more accountable for the future state of oral health in Australia and be investing for the long-term. And by providing State and Territory Governments’ public dental services with substantial extra funds over the next six years, the Federal Government has provided the means for those services to have an expanded reach and scope for adults on low income.

“Being relieved of the financial responsibility for the oral health of 3.4 million children, the States and Territories will be able to reduce their public dental waiting lists rapidly and to a significant extent,” according to Gordon Gregory, Executive Director of the NRHA. “That is assuming the States honour their part of the partnership with the Commonwealth - which is what the public will expect.”

“It is a great relief to know that future savings from the scrapping of the Medicare Chronic Disease (CDDS) and Teen Dental Schemes will be directed at oral care by other means,” he said.

“The new initiatives come on top of the dental workforce and infrastructure measures announced in the last two Federal Budgets - which is good for people in rural and remote areas,” he said. It has been indicated that much of the $225 million for dental infrastructure and workforce will be invested in rural and remote areas. “The Alliance will continue to make the point that a better-distributed oral health workforce is a necessary precondition to better services for the bush.”

There are positive signs that through the dental graduates’ Foundation Year, greater scopes of practice for dental therapists and dental hygienists, and the dentists’ relocation incentive scheme, it should be possible to get more oral health professionals in rural areas and make better use of under-utilised dental chairs in those areas. And rural dentists who are currently making good use of the CDDS will be pleased to know that the expanded capacity of State dental services will see those services making greater use of dentists from the private sector.

“Given the fiscal constraints that Australia has wished upon itself, today’s announcement can be seen as something of a triumph for the Minister and her Department,” Mr Gregory said. “At last Australia has a well-planned and targeted approach to oral health care, underpinned by predictable, mainstream budget allocations.”

Media Enquiries: 

Gordon Gregory - Executive Director: 02 6285 4660