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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

a small step « Previous | |Next »
March 9, 2004

This story by Mark Metherell in the Sydney Morning Herald breaks new ground in the saga of Medicare.

Metherell's story refers to the broadening of Medicare to include dentists among the allied health professionals who will be incorporated in Medicare. Metherell says that Medicare benefits would be offered for needy patients with serious oral disease. He says that the dental scheme could operate as part of a extended health care program.

That is a significant move. Yet it is a small step in recovering the national dental scheme that was dumped by the Howard Government in 1996. As Mark Schifter writes:

" An oral health national strategy would entail that money is not simply flung at repairing and replacing teeth, but addresses the major cause of oral health dysfunction - tooth loss. In children and young adults tooth loss is primarily due to dental decay, but in adults, it is due to gum and periodontal disease, and the lack of a workforce to provide oral health care."

Incorporating dental health into Medicare is a good equity step since access to oral health services distinquishes the haves from the have-nots. A first step is an immediate injection of money.This step is needed for the disastrously long waiting lists (some more than five years) for basic dental services, for the relief of pain and the repair and replacement of teeth.

On Occam's Razor Patrick Shanhan said that the States are responsible for dental services and they had received an extra $2.5-billion from the Commonwealth. But that was spent propping up the health system, public dental services were cut back. Patrick says:

"The real issue here is not public dental services, but flawed national health policy, and its legacy....Dentally, more older people are keeping their teeth now, but they go to the dentist less often. The resulting dental neglect increases the medical risk and the likelihood of having to use more health resources. Despite this, oral health is excluded from healthy ageing programs.When you include oral health in health care you are not practicing dentistry, but preventive medicine."

The Commonwealth Dental Scheme introduced by Labor, was commendable, but it only addressed those on public dental waiting lists. It had no preventive component, and the high risk groups were excluded.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:56 PM | | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

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I have never understood why basic dental services are not covered by Medicare.

Dental treatment is out of the reach of many people, not just the 'needy patients'.

I wonder why the dentists' 'union' have never applied pressure to be included in Medicare? Perhaps they have, then perhaps they may come to the conclusion it would mean a cut in income.


As I understand it, dental health was excised from health policy oveer 50 years. Strange isn't it when health policy is about prevention.

The hidden costs of poor oral health are probably much more than dental treatment since oral and blood born bacteria travel to other parts of the body. And pperiodental , or gum disease, has been linked to heart disease.

Yet oral health is excluded from healthy aging programs.

Including oral health in health care is practisisng preventive medicine.