Dental care for older Australians needs urgent overhaul

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The oral health of older Australians is getting worse due to inadequate dental care according to the Australian Dental Association (ADA) – with the most disadvantaged group being those situated in rural and remote areas.

Furthermore, the rates of decay, cavities and periodontal (gum) disease are the highest among Australians aged 65 years and over. Compounding these oral health issues is the inability of many older Australians to self maintain their oral care and hygiene, as well as to seek or be provided with professional dental care. In short, older Australians and aged care recipients need more help and resources to improve oral health care outcomes.

Risk factors of poor oral health among older Australians

The ADA has been proposing to the Australian Government that they address two key systemic factors preventing older Australians from accessing adequate dental care and achieving optimal oral health. These include:

  • Better and timelier access to dental care.

There are long waiting lists when seeking dental care in the public dental system. Additionally, good-value private health insurance has become increasingly unaffordable for older Australians.

  • The lack of daily oral care provided for aged care recipients.

Due to the funding, staffing, assessment and service shortcomings of aged care providers, the daily oral care and hygiene needs of aged care recipients are not being adequately provided for.

For older Australians living in rural and remote areas, transport issues can also prevent them from gaining timely access to private or public dental care services.

ADA’s submission to the Royal Commission into aged care quality and safety

The ADA has presented a submission to the Royal Commission that lists 13 evidence-based recommendations. If implemented by the Federal Government, these recommendations could greatly improve oral health outcomes for older Australians and aged care recipients.

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The most significant and urgent recommendation issued by the ADA is that disadvantaged older Australians should have access to a Pensioner/Elderly Dental Benefits Schedule, similar to the $1000 Children Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) for children aged 2-17 years. A Commonwealth-funded scheme of this nature would help cover the costs of older Australians receiving timely and much-needed dental care from a private dental practice.

To read more about the ADA’s submission to the Royal Commission, you can read the full 28 page document by clicking the following link:

https://www.ada.org.au/News-Media/ADA-Submission-to-the-Royal-Commission-into-Aged-Care