• Tony Bosworth

‘Disappointing silence’ by both major parties on dental - expert praises Greens for promised plan

Updated: Apr 30

The Greens are the only one of the three major parties to have called for dental to be added under Medicare, a stance which received a warm welcome from a leading medical expert in the field, who has blasted the two major parties for their silence on the issue.

Greens candidate for Macquarie, Tony Hickey, is of course firmly behind his party’s multi-billion dollar proposal to cover the bulk of dental costs under Medicare and he says because dental is not covered yet, residents are suffering.

“In the Hawkesbury, we know people are living with pain and broken teeth, not getting even simple fillings, or opting for the cheapest fix, such as removing teeth that could be saved.”

“This impacts on peoples’ lives, their physical health, capacity to work, family life, ability to sleep, and the most basic things like willingness to smile and self-confidence,” says Mr Hickey.

“You shouldn't be able to tell someone's socio-economic position by looking at their teeth in a wealthy country like Australia.”

Professor Heiko Spallek, Head of School and Dean of the University of Sydney Dental School, says there was no mention in the Coalition’s Budget or in its policies to include dental care under Medicare.

Professor Heiko Spallek, Head of School and Dean of the University of Sydney Dental School

The Professor says Australia has “a disastrous oral health situation” with no proposals from either the Coalition or Labor to address the issue.

“After disappointing silence from the two major political parties about the public health crisis in dentistry, I welcome the proposal by the Greens to have dental care covered by Medicare,” he says.

Poor oral health is associated with several chronic diseases — including stroke and cardiovascular disease, oral cancers, diabetes, and even lung conditions.

The Greens plan would cost around $7.8 billion a year, a figure based on advice from the Parliamentary Budget Office, an independent agency that reports to parliament.

“Proper investment in dental care can be substantial,” says Prof Spallek, “but there is a consistent failure to recognise the potential economic benefits.

“For instance, there are more than 66,809 annual preventable hospitalisations from dental causes [in the period 2019-2020], accounting for one in four potentially preventable hospitalisations.”

“While many implementation challenges remain until we will achieve equitable access to dental care for all Australians,” says Prof Spallek, “this proposal puts the disastrous oral health situation in Australia on the agenda. I am looking forward to proposals by Labor and the Coalition on how to solve this public health crisis.”

“The Federal Budget 2022-23 seems to indicate that the Coalition has no viable solution to offer.”

“Oral health and timely access to quality dental care are critical determinants of population health and the downstream cost of running our health and hospital system,” says the Professor.

“It’s not good enough and the Federal Government has the power to change it,” says Mr Hickey.

“There is a public health crisis and the Greens have a plan to fix this,” he told the Post.

The Greens' Macquarie Federal candidate, Tony Hickey

“The Greens understand that dental health is vital to all aspects of health, especially cardiac and mental health, and should not be excluded from Medicare. The economic and social benefits have been consistently ignored by the Federal Government.”

And for all those who say it is unlikely the Greens will ever hold power in their own right, Mr Hickey points to the party’s ability to affect change when it holds the balance of power – a situation which is clearly potentially possible following this election, with polls showing a narrowing between Labor and the Coalition, and the relatively large number of independent candidates, as well as minor parties.

“The Greens have a strong record on dental care,” says Mr Hickey.

“We were responsible for the Child Dental Benefits Scheme brought in under the Gillard Labor Government, which entitles eligible children to up to $1000 free dental care every two years.”

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