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Public dental care and the Teeth First trial: A history of decay

19 Apr 2010

This report examines the implications of the lack of timely dental treatment for people on low incomes.

Based on the state of dental services available to low-income Australians, the costs of not providing timely treatment, and the findings of the Teeth First trial, the following eight recommendations are made:

  1. Fully incorporate dental care within Medicare, recognising dental care as being an important part of health care.
  2. Develop and communicate a consistent, transparent and easily understood policy for public dental clinics operating in community health centres. This policy should include guidelines on the prioritisation of particular client groups, waiting periods, referral to private dentists and use of vouchers, and the time required before dentures may be fitted.
  3. Offer dental scholarships with similar conditions to those of the Commonwealth Bonded Medical Places Scheme, in which university tuition costs are funded on the proviso that graduates commit to a period of public service in rural and regional areas, with the extent of that service being equivalent to the length of their degree.
  4. Introduce, for all dentistry graduates, a compulsory public dental internship scheme that is adequately resourced to include supervision time and remuneration to practitioners with extra responsibilities.
  5. Increase remuneration for public sector dentists and ancillary staff to achieve parity with the private sector and maximise public dental service provision.
  6. Raise awareness of the public dental services available and encourage community service agencies and Job Services Australia providers to refer clients whose dental health may constitute a barrier to their employment.
  7. Introduce supports at community health centres to assist highly disadvantaged clients, facing multiple barriers, to complete their treatment.
  8. Launch a government-funded national dental health campaign, comparable to anti-smoking or car safety campaigns.

Image: teresia / Flickr

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