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Better dental care for young Australians

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28 May 2013

Better Dental Care for Young Australians

The Gillard Government’s $2.7 billion dental program Grow Up Smiling is now ready to help children access better dental health care from 1 January 2014.

Following the tabling of the program’s operational rules in Parliament, Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek issued a challenge to the states and territories to support Grow Up Smiling by continuing their own dental health funding.

Ms Plibersek said the aim of the program was to arrest the decline in oral health outcomes for children that had been apparent since the 1990s.

“Recent research by the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare shows that more than 47 per cent of Australian 12-year-olds have some decay in their permanent teeth, of which almost half is untreated,” the Minister said.

“Grow Up Smiling will target children between the ages of two and 17 years, particularly in lower income families. This is because statistics show that socio-economic status is closely linked to the risk of oral disease.

“The program will help alleviate this social and economic disadvantage by assisting families in greater financial need with the costs of their children’s basic dental treatment.

“I believe we have a responsibility to ensure that Australian children in low and middle income families can afford to go to the dentist.”

Mr Plibersek said that under Grow Up Smiling, eligible children will have access to dental benefits capped at $1000 over two calendar years.

“This will help pay for basic dental care, such as check-ups, x-rays, fillings and extractions” she said.

“Investment in our children is an investment in the future. We know that poor childhood oral health leads to poor adult oral health. Grow Up Smiling will assist children to maintain their oral health now and provide the foundation for good oral health as they grow.”

Ms Plibersek said the Dental Benefits Rules contained a framework to provide incentives for states to maintain their funding of dental care.

“Dental reform requires a partnership from the states and territories. If they reduce funding as the Commonwealth increases funding, the partnership won’t work.

“This legislation will help me to ensure the residents of each state can benefit from an increase in overall funding for dental health. It will let me hold the states to account and encourage them to maintain their effort.

“I will shortly be writing to state health ministers to remind them of my condition that they not withdraw their own funding in response to the funding that the Commonwealth provides.”

She said Grow Up Smiling was part of $4.6 billion of funding the Australian Government was providing over six years for reforms which will improve access to dental services for many children and low-income Australians.

“I have seen the great work that dental professionals, public and private, are doing to repair young mouths, prevent further harm, and keep them healthy,” Ms Plibersek said.

“Grow Up Smiling will help Australian families with the costs of this dental treatment for their children. I urge the profession to help us make this program a success.”

Further information on Grow Up Smiling is provided on the Department of Health and Ageing’s website.