The health of our teeth may soon be getting its rightful recognition in the Australian healthcare system.
The Greens have proposed dental care to be included in Medicare under a scheme called Denticare.
Greens Senator for NSW, Lee Rhiannon, said: “Everyone should be able to afford to visit the dentist, but the reality is that one third of Australians say they can’t afford to go or delay going because of the expense.
“There has been a lot of support for the Greens in recent times and so the government is looking at the Greens’ goals very closely now.”
The Greens are seeking funding for Denticare in May’s budget.
They started collecting petition signatures from the public on March 28 to support their case.
South Sydney Greens convenor, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, said: “The Greens’ Denticare scheme would start with the most needy.
Those on low incomes, children, pensioners and people with chronic disease will be first in line.
“The idea is to roll this outover five years.”
Denticare will provide dental treatment to the public as a Medicare service as well as build the dental workforce.
Hope Street, a church charity, welcomes the scheme.
Baptist Minister, Julie Brackenreg, said: “Someone in my care had to wait four years for dental treatment at the Sydney Dental Hospital.
She could not eat apples and ate only soft foods.
Sometimes she puts her hand in front of her mouth when she speaks.
“The government has a duty of care to people and that does not stop at their ear, nose or their cancer.”
The Australian Dental Association, which supports the dental industry and oral health of the nation, agrees.
Vice President of the Association, Dr Karin Alexander, said: “Of the 30 per cent of the public who are not on private health such as those in rural areas, those who are financially in need, the handicapped, really need dental care in Medicare.
“But we do not agree that all Australians can have it.
“If we lived in Utopia, it would be ideal. But given our current fiscal situation, it would be difficult to cut the pie up in so many pieces. We will end up with many pieces of very basic services.”
The Association advocates that after taking care of dental treatment, the government should use surplus funds to promote prevention.
“One dollar of dental treatment is equal to seven dollars of prevention.
Rather than focus on full care for all public, we should look at prevention.
The majority of dental problems are preventable,” Dr Alexander said.
The Greens agrees with the prevention strategy.
“We understand dental care is very expensive and so the scheme works better if we have more preventative medicine,” Ms Rhiannon said.