The failure of the 2022 Federal Budget to address the declining oral health of many older, poor and disadvantaged Australians has been labelled very disappointing by the Australian Dental Association.
"We know that thousands of people have to wait years to get a dental appointment in the public system," said association chief executive Damian Mitsch.
"Also, there are large numbers of Australians, including those in residential aged care, those on Level 4 home care packages, those from socially and economically challenged backgrounds, and Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander populations for whom dental care is unaffordable."
Mr Mitsch said the association had put its plan to fix inequity in oral care to successive governments and the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
While acknowledging that National Partnership Agreements were again extended in the budget to ensure public dental services for another year or two, he said it was a band-aid measure for a broken system.
Mr Mitsch said the solution to the funding crisis in dental care for older people, and which was agreed upon by royal commissioners in their final report to government, was the adoption of the Australian Dental Association's Seniors Dental Benefits Schedule.
This would fund dental services for people in residential care and those who live in the community and receive the age pension.
"If the government adopted the schedule, it would mean funding dental care for older Australians as well as some fundamental systems finally being put into place to ensure better dental care for residential and home care residents," Mr Mitsch said.
Glaring inadequacies of the aged care sector, he said, could result in residents going for days without anyone brushing their teeth and/or dentures, painful oral conditions remaining untreated for long periods, insufficient visits from dental staff, and a lack of training in oral healthcare by time-poor staff.
Almost half of people aged over 65 have gum disease or periodontitis, and almost a fifth have complete tooth loss.
Low-income households have a higher prevalence of toothache, periodontal disease, tooth decay and missing teeth.