ORAL health is a huge concern for older Australians.
Far too many people relying on the public health system are left in pain or present to hospitals with preventable problems caused by lack of dental care.
Over half of people aged over 55 have gum disease. If this is left untreated, it leads to complete tooth loss for one-in-five people 75 and over.
But anyone who has tried to receive public dental care knows that access is appalling.
In NSW, waitlists for adults are approaching 100,000 with another 30,000 still waiting to be assessed. They are also prioritised by urgency so those waiting for minor work are left at the bottom of the list until their symptoms worsen and become unbearable.
With public waitlists so long and private dental care so expensive, it’s no wonder that people are fed up with this system.
The Australian Dental Association (ADA) agrees that this issue desperately needs to be addressed.
They have proposed the creation of a Seniors Dental Benefits Schedule to subsidise dental care for older Australians. This would work similarly to the Child Dental Benefits Schedule established in 2014.
They also want to improve oral health in aged care settings by increasing training, lifting standards and mandating oral health assessments.
While not agreeing to these requests, Labor has pledged to work with the ADA in improving the oral health of older Australians.
Working on achieving these goals is really the bare minimum for older people needing dental care.
But what about those who will inevitably fall through the gaps of this scheme? What about all those who are neither children nor seniors?
They too should be able to receive dental care before experiencing detrimental impacts.
An election commitment by The Greens makes dental care accessible to all by including it in Medicare.
This would cost $77 billion over ten years which is why major parties haven’t been so quick to agree, but it is a necessary investment in the wellbeing of Australians.
With the possibility of Greens in the crossbench in both House of Parliament, there is hope they can push for this much needed addition to Medicare.