TasCOSS MEDIA RELEASE: Advocacy groups join forces to call for increased dental funding

17 May 2022


Prominent Tasmanian advocacy groups have joined forces with the Australian Dental Association to call on the next federal government to increase long-term funding for the oral health system, with many Tasmanians waiting years or going without dental care due to high costs and limited accessibility. 

TasCOSS CEO Ms Adrienne Picone said one of the most significant gaps in our health system was the lack of a universal dental health scheme. 

“Poor oral health is an inescapable reality for thousands of Tasmanians who simply can’t afford to see a dentist,” Ms Picone said.

“TasCOSS is calling for a long-term funding model that doubles the number of Tasmanian adults who can access Commonwealth/state funded public dental services and a Seniors Dental Benefits Scheme to make oral health and dental care more accessible to all older Australians.”

Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) Tasmania CEO Mr John Kirwan said investing in preventing dental disease, early detection and intervention was money well spent.
 
“An investment in dental will not only address the current and future dental needs of our communities, but minimise the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, oral cancers, diabetes and even lung conditions from poor oral health conditions,” Mr Kirwan said.
 
“We have seen improvements in mental health and wellbeing through increased self-esteem as patients have been able to re-join the workforce and return to a balanced diet.
 
“We need the resources to ensure we can provide access to those unable to access the current services, or where the waiting lists are too long, in particular in aged care and rural and remote areas of Tasmania.”

Council on the Ageing (COTA) Tasmania CEO Ms Sue Leitch said every year more than 60,000 older Australians are hospitalised due to preventable oral health conditions. 

“This is placing significant pressure on our own state health hospital systems on issues that could be resolved with better support through a dental scheme,” Ms Leitch said. 

St.LukesHealth CEO Mr Paul Lupo said dental health care is a critical part of improving people’s overall health and we have played our role in providing low cost options for Tasmanians to access dental services.

“It is critical now that everyone works together, including governments, to ensure dental is accessible for everyone in the community,” Mr Lupo said.
 
“In the past two years, St.LukesHealth has seen an increase of over 5,000 Tasmanians sign-up specifically for our low cost extras, which includes dental cover.”

Youth Network of Tasmania (YNOT) CEO Ms Tania Hunt said many young Tasmanians aged 18-25 years don’t access dental care when they need it as they just can’t afford it.

“It often takes a back seat to other priorities in a young persons life as they grapple with cost of living pressures, transport disadvantage and accessibility issues,” Ms Hunt said.

Health Consumers Tasmania CEO Mr Bruce Levett said the community is telling his organisation that access to health care is a significant and growing issue for Tasmanians and part of this problem is that many in the community cannot afford the cost of seeking treatment when they need it, including seeing a dentist or doctor.
 
“People don’t want to get sick in the first place, therefore improving access to health care for all Australians is important if we want to keep our communities healthy and providing equal and full access to dental care is a key part of this,” said Mr Levett.

ENDS 

For more information or to arrange an interview: 

  • Adrienne Picone, TasCOSS: Cameron Allen, 0419 769 253 or via email  
  • John Kirwan, RFDS Tasmania: Lana Best, 0455 110 050
  • Sue Leitch, COTA Tasmania: 0448 281 897
  • Paul Lupo, St.LukesHealth: Jacquie Ray, 0429 683 779
  • Tania Hunt, YNOT: 0427 466 189
  • Bruce Levett, Health Consumers Tasmania: 0418 503 126