TasCOSS MEDIA RELEASE: Commonwealth urged to stump up funding for oral health

21 March 2022

TasCOSS are calling for the Commonwealth to provide increased, long-term funding for the oral health system with many Tasmanians currently going without care due to accessibility and cost.  

TasCOSS CEO Ms Adrienne Picone said poor oral health is an inescapable reality for thousands of Tasmanians who simply can’t afford to see a dentist. 

“Many Tasmanians consider going to the dentist or getting their teeth fixed to be a luxury. They take their children because it is free, but not themselves, and live with the pain until it is so severe they present to the emergency ward with infections, or to a public dentist to have teeth removed,” said Ms Picone.

“TasCOSS calls on the Federal Government to commit to long-term funding model that doubles the number of Tasmanian adults who can access Commonwealth and state funded public dental services, including ensuring access for Tasmanians living in rural and regional areas.

“It’s well past time to treat oral health in the same we do health more broadly, where we recognise the need for universal access regardless of a person’s ability to pay. All Tasmanians deserve equal access to oral health care when and where they need it.”

Ms Picone highlighted the need for substantially increased Commonwealth funding for oral health services in the state if we are to improve the oral health and overall health and wellbeing of Tasmanians. This includes significantly boosting the number of dentists — we have the country’s second-lowest number per head of population.

“The Federal Government could take swift action by establishing a Seniors Dental Benefits Scheme to make oral health and dental care more accessible to all older Australians through either public or private practices, as put forward in the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recommendations,” she said.

“Tasmanian adults have some of the worst oral health in the country. Affordability is a key reason, with around 1 in 5 Tasmanians putting off seeing a dentist due to cost. In the past decade, the cost of dental treatment in Hobart has risen over 25%. *

“This has impacts across the health system. For example, poor dental health is the most common reason for preventable hospitalisation of 25 to 34 year olds in Tasmania. ^

“Across the board our oral health outcomes are sobering and highlight the need for a universal dental health scheme.”

* Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report (2018)
^ StLuke’sHealth report (2019)

For more information or to arrange an interview with TasCOSS CEO Adrienne Picone, please contact: