Dental Health

24 February 2020

Senator GRIFF (South Australia) (15:52): I move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

   (i) an estimated 2 million Australians forego necessary dental treatment each year because of the high cost, leaving many with ongoing pain, periodontal disease, decay or missing teeth,

   (ii) poor oral health can cause cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke,

   (iii) oral health care is regarded as an ancillary health service and is not covered by Medicare, which often makes it unaffordable to lower- income Australians and those without health insurance, and

   (iv) according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, there were more than 70,000 hospitalisations in 2016-17 due to preventable dental conditions;

(b) recognises that:

   (i) public dental care is available to people with a Health Care or Pensioner Concession card but services are so stretched and focused on emergency cases that, according to the 2018 Productivity Commission report on Reforms to Human Services, most patients placed on waiting lists wait for a year or more to access treatment, and

   (ii) the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) allows families to access basic services provided in private clinics to a value of $1000 over two years, usually bulk-billed, for a child's dental treatment; and

(c) calls on the Federal Government to:

   (i) commit to a long-term preventative approach to dental care, and work with the states and territories to reduce public dental service waiting lists, and

   (ii) introduce a low-income dental benefits scheme, similar to the CDBS, to provide low-income workers and recipients of the Health Care card and Pensioner Concession card with the ability to access timely dental care.

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