NFPs Renew Call for Access to Dental Care
25 May 2012 at 5:29 pm
Australian Not for Profits are continuing to call for universal access to dental care, following a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The Child Dental Health Survey Australia 2007: 30-year trends in child oral health report, which describes the oral health status of Australian children in 2007, found that almost half of all Australian children aged six attending school dental services experienced tooth decay.
Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) acting chief executive, Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine, said that arresting the problem of dental decay in children and providing the minimal level of access to routine dental services for adults must be a national priority.
“The National Advisory Council on Dental Health report proposes universal access for children as a critical area for reform. This is in part a recognition of the emerging data about the increasing rates of dental decay in parts of the child population,” Dr Boyd-Caine said.
“This problem is particularly pronounced in rural and remote areas of Australia, and for parts of the population including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
“Lack of access to routine dental services is one of the most significant areas of disadvantage for people on low incomes. That’s why ACOSS has long called for a universal dental scheme and has supported the recent proposals of the National Advisory Council on Dental Health.
“Services used to say you could tell someone was experiencing poverty by the shoes on their feet. Now they say it’s by the status of their teeth.
“Poor oral health impacts on the rest of your health, and the stigma associated with it can effect social as well as economic participation. For example, people who feel embarrassed about their teeth are less inclined to go to job interviews,” she said.
Brotherhood of St Lawrence executive director, Tony Nicholson, said that the current dental system in Australia is in “crisis”.
“For too long oral health has been neglected – with dire consequences for the most disadvantaged in the community,” he said.
“The best way to give them access to the dental care they need is to treat the mouth like the rest of the body and include it within Medicare.”
Most children (aged six) in the study recorded one or more of their baby teeth as being decayed, missing or filled.
A spokesperson from the AIHW’s Dental Statistics and Research Unit, Kaye Roberts-Thomas, commented on the study’s findings.
“The good news is that between 1977 and the mid-1990s, the average number of deciduous (baby) teeth affected by caries halved in children aged 6,” she said.
According to the AIHW report, almost 40 per cent of children aged 12 and 60 per cent of children aged 15 had some history of decay in their permanent teeth.
The report also said that one in ten children aged between 12 and 15 showed more than four times the national average of decayed, missing and filled teeth for children between these ages.
The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.