Public dental budget hole filled at last minute

Article published 29 June 2020

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THE Australian Government delayed renewing essential funding agreements for adult public dental services until there were only twenty days left on the existing agreements. The National Partnership Agreement between the Australian Government and the State and Territory Governments provides funding that allows 180,000 Australian adults access to dental services every year.

The federal Health Minister announced on 10 June 2020 that the partnership will be extended by one year. It is obvious that such a short-term guarantee can cause difficulties for medium and long term planning in public dental health.

It is not clear why a scheme like the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) cannot be put in place for all those who are on low incomes.

The CDBS is an Australian Government program that ensures there is adequate funding for all Australian children to receive dental care. Clearly, the funding for adult dental care lacks the security that the CDBS offers.

Tooth decay and gum disease are increasing in Australian adults. Long-term guaranteed funding and planning should be given to adult public dental services, especially at a time when there is real suffering among the tens of thousands on the dental waiting list.

For decades now, politicians have pretended that dental care is one of those nice optionals, knowing full well that oral health is a pre-requisite for good general health. The Government would probably save money overall (GP consultations, specialist medical care, hospital stays and PBS prescriptions) if it put in place a viable public dental health scheme.

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