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Budget a missed opportunity to improve access to dental health services

Budget a missed opportunity to improve access to dental health services

With almost 120,000 people on the NSW public dental waiting list, the peak body for the state’s dentists is disappointed more money was not allocated for oral health services in Tuesday’s Budget.
 
The government will spend a record $23.2 billion on health in 2017-18, but has committed only $10 million over four years to increase access to dental services.
 
There were still 14,081 children and 105,037 adults waiting for public dental treatment at the end of March 2017.
 
“These are adults and children in need of dental care who cannot access services because of a lack of funding,” Dr Sabrina Manickam, President of the Australian Dental Association NSW Branch, said.
 
“While on the waiting list, many of these cases will turn into emergencies and patients who could have been treated by dentists will end up in hospital emergency. ADA NSW is calling on the NSW government to increase funding for public dental services by an additional $25 million a year."
 
The $10 million will allow around 17,000 more patients to receive a course of dental care, the government said. However, it is just a fraction of the $25 million the NSW Council for Social Services (NCOSS) recommended the government invest annually to improve access to dental services and reduce inequities in oral health.
 
Poor oral health is significantly associated with major chronic diseases. Most oral disease and tooth loss is preventable, but many people cannot access preventative or timely dental services.
 
In an NCOSS survey of people experiencing or at risk of poverty, respondents said timely, affordable dental care was the priority that would make the biggest difference in their life and that of their families.
 
ADA NSW worked with NCOSS to develop its pre-budget submissions, which called for an extra $25 million per year for oral health services, to help boost the number of public sector dentists, increase service levels in rural and remote NSW, fund a state-wide Aged Care Dentistry program and improve access to services for priority populations.
 
“We will continue to lobby the NSW Government to increase funding for public dental health services to fund more dentists and help those most in need – indigenous people, older people and those living in rural and remote areas,” Dr Manickam said.
 
In NSW, despite being largely preventable, dental decay is the most prevalent chronic disease in childhood with almost 37 per cent of NSW children have caries, or decay, in their baby teeth, while 26.7 per cent of children aged 5 to 10 have untreated decay. The National Child Oral Health Study 2012-2014 found NSW had the nation’s highest proportion of children who had never visited a dentist, with 15.6 per cent of children aged 5 to 14 never having been to a dentist.

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