Under the Pensioner Dental Plan, people on the aged pension and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders can access $1,000 worth of dental services every two years.
Medicare will cover a variety of dental services including examinations, x-rays, cleaning, fluoride treatment, fissure sealants, fillings, root canals, extractions, periodontal treatment and dentures.
ALP has described the pledge as “the next step towards Labor’s vision for universal access to dental care in Australia”.
Labor has stated that over 185,000 older Australians skip dental care appointments due to the cost, however, more than half of Australian aged 65 and over have moderate or severe gum disease with one in five having no natural teeth.
Studies over the last few years have shown oral health is directly linked to mortality rates.
Labor says, “Poor oral health undermines the broader physical and mental health of older Australians, as well as their social and economic participation.
“Poor oral health also imposes a substantial burden on Australia’s health system. In 2015-16, there were more than 67,000 potentially preventable hospitalisations for dental conditions.”
Aboriginal Medical Services, currently providing dental are for First Nation people, will be able to access the scheme.
Working with dentists, Labor plan to spread the scheme throughout States and Territories so public dentists can utilise the scheme, giving a boost to federal funding for public dental services.
Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) has welcomed Labor’s pensioner dental plan as a good investment that will improve quality of life for older Australians and help reduce the incidence of other more serious medical issues that can come from poor oral health.
ACSA chief executive officer, Patricia Sparrow, says, “Oral and dental issues have become some of the most pressing health issues for older people as we live longer. Aged care residents in particular have many problems accessing dental services.
“Labor’s oral health package is a great step forward to address access issues. It will be important to make sure it is implemented in a way that older people aren’t disadvantaged based on where they live.
“If we can improve access to oral health services then we will not only greatly improve the quality of life for older people but also reduce the incidence of other more serious medical issues that can develop out of oral and dental issues.”
ACSA have been pushing for action on oral and dental issues for the elderly for many years.