Calls grow for publicly funded dental care program to improve oral health of seniors

Mar 20, 2023
Previous findings have highlighted the growing concern for the state of seniors' dental health, indicating that one in four older Australians has untreated tooth decay. Source: Getty Images.

As the world recognises World Oral Health Day, closer-to-home calls have grown for more to be done to improve the dental health of older Australians.

COTA Chief Executive Officer, Patricia Sparrow has called on the Federal Government to improve access to dental care by implementing a publicly funded senior dental health program bulk billed through Medicare.

“A lack of government action is resulting in many older Australians being forced to deal with long-lasting health consequences due to a lack of affordable and accessible dental care,” Sparrow said.

“One of the key recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission was the introduction of a publicly funded senior dental scheme, but we’re still yet to see meaningful action on its introduction.

“It is not just a matter of cosmetic appearance; oral health is an essential measure of overall health and quality of life. Good oral health is vital to overall health and well-being, yet many older Australians face challenges accessing basic dental health services.

“The time to invest in a national dental program is now. We need to see the government develop a publicly funded senior dental health program, bulk billed through Medicare. In the first instance, the scheme should target those who need it most – older people on low incomes, all people living in a residential aged care home or receiving a home care package.”

Sparrow stressed that “a Senior Dental Benefits Schedule will prove an immeasurable investment for the Government, improving the dental and overall health of older Australians whilst reducing the overall long-term costs created by the lack of access to dental care.”

“It was a Labor Government that delivered the Children’s Dental Benefit Scheme. Now it’s time to protect older Australians’ oral health too,” Sparrow said.

Source: Getty Images.

Previous findings from the Australian Dental Association have highlighted the growing concern for the state of seniors’ dental health, indicating that one in four older Australians has untreated tooth decay, and more than half have gum disease.

With figures such as these,  the importance of oral health and its impact on overall health and well-being cannot be understated and given further research that highlights the link between gum disease and chronic health conditions such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and heart disease, Australians are encouraged to prioritise their dental health.

Source: Getty Images.

When it comes to maintaining good oral health in your later years, Advisory Services Manager, Engagement & Advocacy Executive, Dr Sarah Raphael from the Australian Dental Association NSW Branch suggests keeping things simple at the bathroom sink.

“It’s the good old basic things – performing oral hygiene twice daily – toothbrushing with fluoride toothpaste, cleaning dentures and leaving them out at night, eating a diet low in added sugar, drinking tap water as the main drink and staying well hydrated (have a water bottle available at all times),” Raphael said.

Raphael also stresses the importance of prevention over cure and suggests regular dentist visits to stay ahead of possible problems.

“Ensuring that they have regular preventive dental visits in their senior years is the best way to avoid these consequences,” she said.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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