Root canal is bad enough, but the hundreds spent on the operation only make the operation more painful.
And the high costs of dental care mean 2 million Australians in need are missing out every year, a new report from The Grattan Institute has revealed.
The report, Filling the gap: A universal dental care scheme for Australia, found the cost of universal dental of care would be $5.6 billion a year and would require training and recruitment of more staff.
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While it sounds like a significant undertaking, the Grattan Institute’s health program director, Stephen Duckett said universal dental care is a “big idea whose time has come”.
“All Australians should be able to get the care they need, when they need it, without financial barriers,” he said.
“When Australians need to see a GP, Medicare picks up all or most of the bill. But when they need to see a dentist, Australians are on their own.
“There’s no compelling medical, economic, legal or logical reason to treat the mouth so differently from the rest of the body.”
How big is the problem?
Around a quarter of Australian adults avoid certain foods due to their teeth, while in low-income communities, that figure rises to around a third. Women, the middle-aged, people living outside cities and indigenous Australians are also more likely to find cost a barrier.
Concerningly, even if Australians are visiting the dentist, the high cost of continued care or further treatments mean they don’t always get what they need.
Additionally, low-income Australians are more likely to have untreated tooth decay, missing teeth or periodontal disease.
Poor oral health can contribute to diabetes and heart disease, but most conditions are preventable.
However, warned the Grattan Institute, many people go to the hospital or to the GP to seek treatment for advanced problems that could have been addressed much earlier.
Around 2 million Australians who needed a visit to the dentist last year didn’t go or delayed it due to the cost.
And while states have some public health care, the waiting lists are for well over a year.
How would the scheme work?
Grattan’s scheme would be phased in over 10 years and would cost $5.6 billion a year.
More dentists and technicians would need to be recruited and trained, but the government would also need to inject cash into the public scheme to ensure those eligible for the public dental schemes are able to access them sooner.
The public dental scheme would then be expanded first to those receiving Centrelink payments and then children.
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