By Bonny O’Shea and produced online by Melissa Hunter
Australians may have to wait up to five years to receive dental care as waiting lists reach new heights.
Over 650,000 Australians who do not have private health insurance are unimpressed with the dental health care system.
The Consumer Health Forum launched a campaign this morning which is aimed at improving the delays to receive treatment.
Forum spokesman Christian Smyth says the problems stem from dental care being excluded from Medicare.
“Whilst we have Medicare to provide access for everybody to health interactions with everything except for your mouth and if you do have a problem and you haven’t got private health insurance then you have to get in a queue,” he says.
Mr Smyth is hopeful of a serious commitment from the Federal Government in next week’s Budget announcement.
“What would be great is if in this budget we could get half-a-billion-dollars as a down payment on making sure that the beginnings of access to care for those who can least afford it but need it most is on the books,” he says.
The Community Health Forum says the crisis has huge hidden costs to the health system, with links to diabetes, stroke and cancer.
Mr Smyth says poor dental care can impact on mental health as well, causing anxiety, depression and isolation.
“I remember talking to a mother and her five-year-old began to distance herself from her mum because the rest of the kids were laughing at the mother,” Mr Smyth says.
“She says she had had a difficult orthodontic protracted jaw and this caused her extraordinary heartbreak.”
Australian Medical Association president Dr Steve Hambleton supports the integration of dental care into Medicare.
He says GPs see the consequences of poor dental care in their patients every day.
“We see impacted wisdom teeth quite regularly which is something that unfortunately causes significant pain and disability which could be managed in a better way by dentists,” Dr Hambleton says.