Bad Mouth - The neglected reality
The Dental Hygienists Association of Australia released the paper today to support equitable and affordable dental healthcare for all Australians.
Oral diseases are associated with many chronic medical conditions, poor nutritional status and can affect quality of life through pain, discomfort, speech impairment and social withdrawal.
DHAA President Ms Cheryl Dey said that “for generations, our country has neglected oral health and dental services despite evidence indicating they are closely linked to general health and wellbeing. Historically, dentistry adopts a treatment-dominated, invasive and high tech approach to care that is often expensive”.
One in five Australians delays or chooses not to see a dental practitioner due to cost. Australian consumers pay 58% of their dental costs out of pocket compared to just 12% for pharmaceutical - and only 11% for medical expenses. This disparity in government funding has put regular oral health care out of reach of many. Approximately 60% of older people over 85 years do not have access to dental care. Residents in aged care facilities are at a higher risk for aspiration pneumonia because of bad oral health. In some cases this necessitates acute hospital care and may even lead to death.
Many common oral diseases are preventable and early intervention has a significant positive impact on the quality of life of patients while diminishing the economic burden for society.
Dental hygienists, oral health therapists and dental therapists are an under-utilised, yet powerful workforce that could improve the current undesirable situation. These oral health professionals have a preventative and health-promotion focus, they should be a key driving force to combat the neglect of oral health and dental services for all Australians.
“Our members are keen and ready to reach out to rural and remote locations, residential aged care facilities and deliver preventative care and early intervention to fill the service gaps. The public’s access to these preventive services is blocked if they wish to utilise their entitlements via government schemes for veterans (DVA) and children (CDBS), or their private health insurance.” Ms Dey explains “dental hygienists, oral health therapists and dental therapists are among the very few health professional groups that do not have Medicare provider numbers”.
DHAA therefore calls on the governments, funding organisations and health service providers to act to:
- Ensure equity of oral health services for all Australians
Shift towards the paradigm of oral disease prevention and health promotion
- Restore oral health as an integrated element of overall health and general wellbeing
| The first step towards this is for the Federal Government to issue dental hygienists, oral health therapists and dental therapists with a Medicare provider number to ensure public access to these preventive oral health care services in an equitable way.
The following resources are available to download.
Bill Suen CEO
Ph: 0412 831 669