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News Corp CDBS Media Coverage: Aussie families missing out on $1000 worth of dental care

3 April 2021
News Corp Publications

Reporter: Sue Dunlevy
 
Two in three families are missing out on $1,000 worth of free dental care for their children because they don’t even know they are eligible for the program. 

As dentists report cases of chronic tooth decay in young children, there are calls for Family Tax Benefits to be withdrawn from families who fail to get their kids a dental check at two and four years.
 
The Child Dental Benefits Scheme has been operating for six years but a government inquiry found it was so poorly advertised families didn’t know about it.
 
The inquiry called for the scheme to be opened to oneyear-olds (currently it applies to children aged 2-17) and said it should be expanded to cover dental treatment in hospital.
 
NSW Australian Dental Association President Dr Kathleen Matthews, who recently removed 18 of the 20 teeth in a five-year-old’s mouth, is calling for more to be done to get parents using the scheme.
 
While this was an extreme case she said it was normal for her to remove somewhere between four to eight teeth from a child’s mouth.

“We often see children here that have multiple teeth that are badly affected by decay, and the only solution for that is to take them into hospital and give them a general anaesthetic, it breaks my heart,” Dr Matthews said.
 
More than three million Australian children whose parents receive the Family Tax Benefit are eligible for $1000 worth of free dental care every two years but Department of Health reports that only 39.7 per cent take advantage of the scheme.
 
The government writes to families once a year to remind them of the scheme but a government review found “the notification letters were not readily understandable, not attention grabbing”.
 
The review called for the scheme to be opened to oneyear-olds to encourage families to start going to the dentist early.
 
Sarah Sukarna said the Child Dental Benefits Scheme saved her 14-year-old daughter Ayisha’s life when it paid for a $700 bill for emergency root canal treatment for a condition that threatened her breathing.
 
“The dentist was there for two hours, saving my daughter’s life because the swelling was going down to her neck, and he would drain it and it would swell with drain and then fall off again. To have that money there was like a life saver because I don’t have $700,” Ms Sukarana, a 34-year-old business analyst, said.

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