The cost of inaction

The government could save itself millions of dollars if it implements a new nationwide dental scheme as promised, a recently released report states.

By Yasmin Noone

The federal government could save itself over $400 million if it better addressed the oral health needs of older disadvantaged adults who can not afford dental care, according to a new report released today.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence report, End the decay: The cost of poor dental health and what should be done about it,  found that poorer Australians aged over 65 years are locked out of receiving proper dental care because they can not afford to pay for it.

As a result, they suffer indirectly experiencing a range of diseases such as periodontal-related coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and pancreatic cancer.

The report, which analysed existing data to estimate the disease burden of untreated dental conditions and the resulting economic burden, states that the indirect cost of dealing with these diseases in the older age group is around $412 million per annum.

The report’s authors, Professor Jeff Richardson from Monash University and Bronwyn Richardson from Campbell Research and Consulting,also found that millions of Australians are denied dental treatment because of its high price, costing the country and economy more than $1.3 billion every year.

“The indirect economic costs of poor dental health would be in large part avoided with better access to dental services, and therefore these costs should be subtracted from the direct costs of an expanded dental scheme,” the report stated.

Hospital admissions from dental conditions are the largest category of preventable acute hospital admissions, costing the health system $223 million each year.

But according to the findings, the government could retrieve $223 million in avoidable hospital costs if it was to go ahead with plans to implement a nationwide dental scheme.

“Further, increased access to dentists would relieve pressure on GP services by removing seven to ten per cent of the current use of their services.

“Pressure on hospitals and hospital waiting lists would be improved as admissions [would fall] by 50,000.”

After the 2010 election, the Australian government and the Greens party  agreed, as a matter of priority, to focus on implementing a new dental scheme that will better meet the needs of the most disadvantaged Australians.

The charity’s report was therefore ommissioned to help inform the policy development process.

Executive director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Tony Nicholson, said the costs of poor dental health were being borne by those least able to afford them.
“This report is valuable in terms of putting numbers on the economic costs and the disease burden, but in our line of work we see the direct impact on people’s lives,” Mr Nicholson said.

“Poor dental health can cause pain that impairs eating and speaking and it can disfigure people’s faces, eroding their confidence, undermining their employability and excluding them from mainstream economic and social life.”

“Poor and missing teeth are a sign of poverty, and of social exclusion. In the next budget, the government has a historic opportunity to start fixing the dental health system.

“We urge the government, the Greens and the Independents to consider the very high costs that are already being imposed on those least able to pay and to start developing a dental plan that works for these groups.”

Tags: australian-greens, bronwyn-richardson, brotherhood-of-st-laurence, campbell-research-and-consulting, cost-of-poor-dental-health, denist, dental, dentistry, disadvantaged, end-the-decay, federal-government, greens, monash-university, oral-health, professor-jeff-richardson,

2 thoughts on “The cost of inaction

  1. I want to know whats the best place to raise my concerns regarding the extremely high cost that overseas qualified dentists have to pay for Australian dental council exams. The English test costs 600, The theory costs 3000 & the final exam ( which is 6 days in a row) costs 6500 for exam plus u have to go to any city where ADC decides which costs a few thousands dollars for accomodation & meals & travel etc. Even as Aus citizens, its too much to afford to pay. Also there is a limit of 2 years on OET & 3 years on thery exam, so you have limited time to pass final, meaning you start form scratch and give theory & OET again if it expries. ADC is just ripping off people. i dont mind the exam to be tough but the cost of exams is just ridulous for a single income family with kids.

  2. My wife is an overseas dentist too. This exam has cost me over $40,000 the last 4 years. It does take a very very long time. If they are not interested in overseas dentist why not just stop the exams as opposed to forcing people to continually pay for exams they will not pass because they are not needed (not because the exam is hard…I assure you it is not).

    I have spoken to my MP, honestly I don’t think they can do much. I think the only way to get our voices heard is to form a an official association ourselves and start fighting for the rights of overseas trained dentists.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *