Dental diseases are a costly public health issue that disproportionately affect disadvantaged people.1,2 However in Australia, access to oral health care services is determined largely by the ability to pay. In recent years, there has been growing concern about inequities in access to care, with a particular focus on the length of time people are waiting to access state and territory-funded public dental services. In response to these concerns, the Gillard government established a National Advisory Council on Dental Health in 2011. In August 2012, the government announced a new dental reform package that would replace two of its existing dental programs – the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme and Medicare Teen Dental program – both of which provide benefits to patients through the Medicare scheme. In contrast, the new reform package provides more funding to state and territory governments so that they can reduce public dental waiting lists and establish more effective and efficient dental care for low income families and children.
To implement the new reform package, policymakers will need to make important decisions about access to publicly-funded dental care: who should be eligible, how often should they be able to access services, and what services should be covered.