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Landmark day for improving seniors' oral health

Read the 1 March 2021 Media Release

Dental experts have welcomed the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s recommendations transforming older Australians’ oral health, but warn proposals including Medicare-funded dental care for older Australians must be well-designed, implemented and extensively promoted to ensure they work.

“For too long, older Australians’ oral health has been neglected, resulting in their unnecessary pain and suffering,” Australian Dental Association New South Wales (ADA NSW) President Dr Kathleen Matthews said. “The Commission heard distressing evidence that older Australians in care are too often going without even basic oral health and hygiene services. This includes access to daily tooth brushing, denture care and regular dental checkups.

“Poor oral health significantly impacts general health and quality of life. It can worsen existing chronic conditions for older Australians and even lead to premature death. Care staff are often untrained or lack the knowledge or time to provide oral care for older Australians.

“The recommendation for at least one oral health practitioner in every approved care provider, as recommended by ADA NSW in its submission, will help older Australians in care receive the dental treatment they deserve. Improving the current aged care workforce’s knowledge of oral care for older Australians and the commitment to best practice oral health care is also welcome.

“ADA NSW calls on the Federal and State Government to work with dental practitioners, ourselves and seniors’ representative groups to successfully implement these recommendations.”

Dr Matthews also welcomed the recommendation for a Seniors Dental Benefits Scheme (SDBS) providing funding dental services for those in care or eligible older Australians living in the community.

“One in five Australians aged 65 and over haven’t seen a dental practitioner for two years, despite 60% of over-65s suffering moderate or severe gum disease,” Dr Matthews said. “Older Australians are among the 100,000 patients in NSW alone currently suffering unnecessary pain and waiting months and even years for affordable dental treatment under the public dental system

“Access to affordable oral health care is a right, not a privilege. An SDBS will allow older Australians to receive dental care – if it is successfully implemented and promoted by the Federal Government. The signs for this, however, aren’t promising. At the moment, for example, about 1.8m Australian eligible children every year miss out on Medicare-funded dental treatment because of poor promotion by the Federal Government of the Child Dental Benefits Schedule.

“An SDBS will only work if patients, their families and carers know about it, understand it and can access it, which is the Federal Government’s responsibility. ADA NSW calls on the Federal Government to accept the Commission’s recommendations and work with the oral health profession and other key stakeholders to ensure the program’s successful design and implementation.”

Download the media release >

Download ADA NSW's submission to the Commission >

For more information or for interview requests, contact ADA NSW Media Advisor Stuart
Turner on 0451 002 466 or email stuart.turner@adansw.com.au.

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