Too many still in need of basic dental care

In March this year, The Courier reported on the alarming rate of tooth decay in children throughout Ballarat and the Grampians. 

Dental Health Services Victoria revealed three in five children were presenting to public dental clinics with tooth decay; well above the Victorian average.

In today’s Courier , Ballarat Health Services reports that 65 per cent of Australians have not seen a dentist in the last two years, 50 per cent only brush their teeth once a day, and almost 40 per cent never floss or clean between their teeth.

What is not being publicised is the reality about public dental health and the waiting lists for care. Another media service this week had to access reports through Freedom of Information to extract the true, and alarming, figures of how long people are waiting for basic dental care. 

Many, many people (predominatly socially disadvantaged) are waiting 18 months to two years, sometimes more in regional areas, for basic dental care.

Dental disease is strongly linked to low socio-economic status but Australia is not a third-world country, so how did it come to this? How is that basic dental care is viewed as a luxury, way down the list of priority of budgeted items?

Hospital emergency staff report constantly seeing people presenting with tooth abcesses or other dental problems that could have been resolved earlier with good dental care.

In June 2015, about 41 per cent of Victorians were eligible for public dental services and yet new data shows 5900 Victorian children aged under 14, were hospitalised for preventable dental conditions, most needing general anaesthetic for tooth decay issues.

Poor oral health can lead to psychological and social problems, including poor self-esteem, anxiety and depression. In a world obsessed with physical perfection and the secret to anti ageing, one’s smile can make or break so many opportunities and relationships. 

It is not new news that a preventive approach to oral health care is widely recognised as the most cost-effective approach to improving oral health outcomes. It can save the economy significant amounts in health costs  s people age.

It is Dental Health Week and oral health is in the spotlight. That is commendable, but the reality is that good dental care should always be a priority, and accessible to all.