Calls for over-60s to support plans for affordable dental health scheme

Nov 03, 2020
The proposed scheme could potentially help make dentistry affordable for older Australians in aged care. Source: Getty.

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) is asking over-60s to throw their support behind a new dental scheme that could potentially help make dentistry affordable for older Australians in aged care.

Under the proposed Senior Dental Benefits Scheme (SDBS), which was outlined in the ADA’s two final submissions to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (RCAC) in 2019 and 2020, Pensioner Concession Card holders aged over 65 and Commonwealth Senior Card holders would receive an individual entitlement to use up to a cap, for every two-year period, and able to be used at either a public or a private dental service.

The entitlement could be used by patients to fund care before or on entry to aged care and regularly from then on, as well as oral health care planning and treatment once in aged care. Importantly, it would mean that older Aussies would no longer need to languish on public dental waiting lists, and would have the choice of continuing to see their regular dentist.

According to the ADA, it’s expected to mirror the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) and would offer access to all procedures in the ADA schedule, offering patients a wider range of treatment options including under general anaesthetic.

ADA President Dr Carmelo Bonanno said in a statement that the proposed scheme has now been acknowledged by the counsel assisting RCAC. The RCAC is due to make its final recommendations in February 2021.

“Last week counsel assisting the RCAC acknowledged our scheme and formally recommended to the commissioners that such a model is the most realistic option for funding dentistry for older Australians,” he said.

“Now we’re hoping that with the nation’s seniors understanding what we propose and getting behind the plan, the RCAC will recommend it to [the] government when they submit their final report in February.”

Dr Bonanno continued: “Without the funding mechanism to ensure that older Australians can access screening and treatment through both public and private dental practitioners, the oral health of our most vulnerable population will continue to be neglected.

“It’s particularly important for those older Australians receiving home care or going into aged care facilities that their oral health issues are assessed and treated and that they receive ongoing care to ensure they can continue to eat, speak, socialise and be free from pain.”

It comes after disturbing statistics from the National Oral Health Survey (2017 to 2018) found 23 per cent of people aged between 55 and 74 and nearly 10 per cent of those 75 and over reported that dental costs had prevented recommend treatment. Meanwhile, almost a quarter of people aged 55 to 74 and almost one in five people 75 and over said they would have a lot of difficulties paying a $200 dental bill.

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