Millions of Australians put off essential dental care because they can't afford it, leading to serious health problems. The Greens believe your income should not determine your health. We have an affordable plan to give more Australians access to the dental care they need, when they need it.
The Greens believe that dental care should be an integral part of our health care system. The exclusion of dental care from Australia's public health system causes hardship and poor health outcomes for millions of Australians. The Greens' affordable plan will provide access to essential dental care for millions more Australians.
The Greens will retain the Child Dental Benefits Scheme (CDBS) that the Government has proposed to axe and which provides essential dental care through Medicare to children in families receiving Family Tax Benefit A. And starting in July 2017, we'll extend this to provide dental care for those who need it most by investing $6.6 billion1 over the forward estimates to provide $1000 for essential dental care every two years to more Australians.
Publicly funding dental care
If you break a toe, your doctor and local hospital can provide the treatment you need, free of charge. But with dental care excluded from Medicare – what do you do if you break a tooth?
This exclusion sees millions of Australians putting off visits to the dentist, leading to painful and sometimes life-threatening complications.
The Greens have long called for this situation to be changed. We worked with the last government and achieved Medicare funding for dental services for millions of Australian children with the Child Dental Benefits Scheme (CDBS).
Wealth and postcode shouldn't determine health
Cost is a huge barrier to accessing a dentist in Australia. The lower your income, the more likely you are to experience chronic dental problems; low income earners have more than twice the rate of untreated dental decay as high income earners. For people in rural and regional Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and the aged, the numbers are even worse.
Unlike other areas of the health system, most dental health expenditure comes from our own pockets. For some, the cost of a trip to the dentist can be a high barrier. As a result, over a third of adults report that they have delayed seeing a dentist due to cost. More than three quarters of a million GP visits a year are due to dental health issues, and in one year alone, there were 128,712 hospitalisations due to dental issues that were serious enough to require a general anaesthetic.
The Greens will provide access to dental care to approximately an additional 4 million Australians who can least afford it, because your wealth should not determine your oral health.
A health crisis in the making
Untreated dental disease can have a huge impact on a person's quality of life. If you have ever been unlucky enough to wake up with a toothache, it's easy to understand how the inability to access proper treatment due to its cost, could make life a misery.
Untreated dental disease can have very serious consequences, such as leading to low birth weight and premature babies, increased risk of heart disease and life-threatening infections. Poor dental health can also lead to social isolation, poor diet, and depression, not to mention financial consequences.
For those who can't afford to see a private dentist, the state governments provide care through public dental hospitals. They struggle to meet demand, and many parts of regional and remote Australia have no access to these public dental hospitals. There are hundreds of thousands of people stuck on state waiting lists, with wait times reaching up to years depending on the treatment required. Since 80% of the dental workforce works in the private sector, its clear public dental hospitals are only part of the solution.
A genuine commitment to dental care
Only the Greens have a costed, affordable Denticare policy to give more Australians access to their local dentist for the essential treatment they need.
The government has suggested that the CDBS has been under used by those who are eligible for the scheme. We would draw from any unspent funds to develop an education and promotion campaign to ensure dentists and eligible people are aware of, and utilise the scheme.