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One million more dental services under threat.

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Minister for Health and Ageing


28 August 2008


The new $290 million Commonwealth Dental Health Program is under threat from the economic irresponsibility of the Liberal Opposition.

If the initiative is able to go ahead, it will help the 650,000 Australians currently waiting for public dental care, by funding an estimated one million extra public dental services over three years.

Additional services and funding over three years by state and territory New South Wales 327,200 $91.34m Victoria 258,000 $72.65m

Queensland 187,000 $52.81m Western Australia 82,000 $23.61m South Australia 85,600 $24.71m Tasmania 30,000 $10.60m

Australian Capital Territory 15,000 $4.60m Northern Territory 10,610 $4.70m All States 995,410 $285m*

*$5m for contingency funding

Last year, Labor made it clear that funding for this program was dependent on redirecting funding from the Liberal Government’s failed dental scheme, which has not helped a single child up to the age of 14 in South Australia, Tasmania or the Northern Territory.

If that funding is not available, then the new Commonwealth Dental Health Program will be in jeopardy. We know that:

• 1 in 5 Australians avoid recommended dental treatment because they can’t afford it. • 1 in 6 Australians avoid certain foods because of problems with their teeth. • Over 40% of the Australian population aged 15 or over have not visited a dentist in the last twelve months.

Things weren’t always this bad. But in 1996 the previous Liberal Government cut the existing Commonwealth Dental Health Program, leaving working families without the dental care they needed.

The new Commonwealth Dental Health Program would provide $290 million to state and territory governments over the next three years to help reduce waiting times and provide priority treatment to people with chronic diseases affected by poor oral health, Indigenous Australians and pre-school children.

The new Commonwealth Dental Health Program would mean that hundreds of thousands of Australians would have improved access to dental health services.

The initiative would also reduce the strain on the hospital system by delivering more accessible and better targeted dental care. In doing so it would help to reduce the 50,000 preventable hospital admissions for dental conditions every year.

Lengthy waits mean that many Australians don’t try to get their dental problems fixed, but leaving tooth decay and oral disease untreated can lead to further health complications.

States and territories will be required to maintain their own levels of funding and would be able to use the new funding to supplement existing public dental services and purchase services from the private sector in places where public dental services are not available.

Unfortunately, all of this is under threat due to the economic vandalism of the Liberal Party.

Media contact only: Sean Kelly - 0417 108 362 For all other enquiries, contact Ms Roxon's office (02) 6277 7220