Stop the Rot - Federal Election 2022
Poor oral health continues to be one of the strongest indicators of inequality in Australia, yet dental health continues to be absent from health policy discussions in this country.
- There are 200,000 older Australians living in residential aged care who have poor access to dental care.
- The Aged Care Royal Commission highlighted significant neglect and countless stories of poor oral health.
- Older Australians deserve better than what they are currently getting.
The ADAVB is calling on the Federal Government to take urgent action to improve access to public dental care and help improve oral health.
- A Senior Dental Benefits Scheme is established to provide dental care through the public and private sector for people who are 65+ years with a Pensioner Concession or Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.
- All staff working in residential aged care receive education and training to be able to care for residents' daily oral health needs and to identify when dental care is required.
- The health assessment for people aged 75 years and older should include an oral health assessment.
- The Aged Care Quality Standards are reviewed to include a commitment to best practice oral health care and aged care providers are mandated to meet oral care standards.
Dental diseases are some of the most prevalent diseases affecting Australians across all ages. One in three children experience tooth decay by the age of 5-6 years, and more than 50% of Australians over the age of 65 years have gum disease. Dental problems are the leading cause of preventable hospitalisation for Australian children. More than 85% of dental care is provided through the private sector. People with poor oral health may experience pain and embarrassment, have trouble speaking and eating, miss school, have trouble getting a job, and develop other serious health problems.
That’s why it’s so important that all Victorians have access to regular dental care.
But there is one section of the community where these problems are exacerbated. Older Australians living in residential aged care have some of the poorest oral health in the nation, and suffer significant barriers in being able to access dental care. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Safety and Quality highlighted these issues for many of the nearly 200,000 people living in residential aged care.
The current public system can’t cope with the demand, with waiting lists that are now more than 2 years long evidence of this. What we really need is meaningful and coherent dental policy at the federal level, not the current erratic model we have experienced in the past where various schemes have been introduced and closed down.
There is clearly a need for government-funded dental-care programs that are targeted, have clear eligibility criteria, cover a broad spectrum of dental services, can be introduced in phased stages, and have minimal, if any, capital costs to address these oral health inequities. The Child Dental Benefits Schedule is an example of such a program that provides an important mechanism for socioeconomically disadvantaged children to receive dental care from either private dentists or public dental services.
The best place to start this reform is to address the oral health neglect in residential aged care. Older Australians deserve better than what they are currently getting.
All Australians should be able to enjoy good oral health which is essential to overall health, wellbeing, and quality of life. However, despite significant improvements over the past 30 years, there is still evidence that too many older Australians experience poor oral health.
Teeth affected by tooth decay:
- 19.4 in 55-74 year olds
- 24.4 in 75+ year olds
Untreated tooth decay:
- 32% of those aged 55-74 years
- 25% of those aged 75+ years
Periodontal (gum disease):
- 51% of those aged 55-74 years
- 69% of those aged 75+ years
Complete tooth loss
- 8% of those aged 55-74 years
- 20% of those aged 75+ years
- 22% of those aged 55-74 years
- 46% of those aged 75+ years
The population is ageing, with 16% of Australians aged 65+ years. They continue to have a high need for dental care. Poor oral health is one of the strongest indicators of disadvantage, with priority population groups including those from low-income households, first nations people, people and those living in regional and remote areas. Disadvantaged Australians experience relatively high rates of poor oral health, and many find it difficult to access timely dental treatment when they need it.
Recognising that there is poor access to oral health services and subsequent poor oral health for people living in residential aged care, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Safety and Quality recommended the establishment of a Senior Dental Benefits Scheme commencing no later than 1 January 2023, which would:
- fund dental services to people who live in residential aged care, or live in the community and receive the age pension or qualify for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
- include benefits set at a level that minimises gap payments, and includes additional subsidies for outreach services provided to people who are unable to travel, with weightings for travel in remote areas
- provide benefits for services limited to treatment required to maintain a functional dentition (as defined by the World Health Organization) with a minimum of 20 teeth, and to maintain and replace dentures.
That a Senior Dental Benefits Scheme be established to provide dental care through the public and private sector for people who are 65+ years and who are in receipt of a Pensioner Concession or Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.
Download the Senior Dental Benefits Scheme factsheet.
The Aged Care Royal Commission recommended that as part of a review of Certificate III and IV courses for aged care workers, the Aged Care Services Industry Reference Committee must include units on oral health as core competencies for aged care workers to ensure that that staff in residential aged care facilities are equipped to meet resident’s oral hygiene needs and recognise when a professional referral is required. The Better Oral Health in Residential Care training package is recommended for carer education. It would upskill the aged care staff to perform routine daily oral hygiene procedures, including toothbrushing and denture cleaning.
That all staff working in residential aged care receive education and training to be able to care for residents' daily oral health needs and to identify when dental care is required.
Australians aged 75 years can have a comprehensive health assessment conducted by their general medical practitioner. This is an ideal time to also check on a their oral health, but the current health assessment does not require that dental and oral health be reviewed. Therefore a key part of general health is not assessed.
Dental and oral health must be added to the over 75 health assessment and GPs must have adequate training and time within the assessment item to undertake a basic oral and dental assessment.
That the health assessment for people aged 75 years and older include an oral health assessment.
The Aged Care Royal Commission recommended that the Aged Care Quality Standards be reviewed and amended by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health and Aged Care by 31 December 2022 to require a commitment to best practice oral health care. Aged care providers – both residential aged care and home care providers - must be mandated to meet oral care standards.
That the Aged Care Quality Standards be reviewed to included a commitment to best practice oral health care.
That aged care providers be mandated to meet oral care standards.
Email the candidates
You can help to make a difference. Send an email to your local Member of Parliament and the candidates in the upcoming election. Tell them that access to dental care is important to you. Ask them to ensure that dental care is funded adequately so that people do not miss out on necessary dental treatment. Encourage your friends to get involved in the campaign.
Use the map below to find your federal electorate. Click on the electorate, and then click on the 'Send email' link. Add any personal information about problems you have experienced accessing dental care to help illustrate how important oral health is to you, and why it is important to boost funding for dental care.
Note: the email will BCC a copy to email@example.com so we can track the success of the campaign. If you do not want your candidate email to be copied to us, simply delete the BCC email address.
Social media toolkit Right click on the images to download and use on social media. Use the hashtags #Stoptherot #MyMouthMatters and #dental, and tag @adavb (Twitter) or @ausdentalvic (Instagram). Community sentiment To better understand community sentiment, ADAVB commissioned exclusive independent polling by Resolve Strategic which found that oral health issues are an important consideration for Australian voters: Authorised by M Hopcraft, Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch
Level 3, 10 Yarra Street, South Yarra VIC 3141
Social media toolkit
Right click on the images to download and use on social media. Use the hashtags #Stoptherot #MyMouthMatters and #dental, and tag @adavb (Twitter) or @ausdentalvic (Instagram).
To better understand community sentiment, ADAVB commissioned exclusive independent polling by Resolve Strategic which found that oral health issues are an important consideration for Australian voters:
Authorised by M Hopcraft, Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch