ADA calls for Government to expand oral healthcare for vulnerable groups

Woman smiling without full set of teeth
Australian Dental Association
19 September 2023
10 min read
In the media

In this piece screened on ABC News on Sunday 17 September, ordinary Australians talk about their oral health issues — the long waits in accessing public care and the impact of bad teeth on self-esteem and the ability to land a job.

People such as Mark McDonnell who founded a charity which feeds homeless and disadvantaged Queenslanders once a week, and who, though he is one of a minority of Australian adults who qualify for free dental care, is affected by long waiting lists and being told he's "not a priority" for public treatment.

Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John, who is chairing a multi-party Senate inquiry into access to dental care in Australia (to which the ADA has significanty contributed), describes it as "a system in decay, a dental health system that does not work for the community".

The Greens have called for dental treatment to be covered under Medicare and estimate the policy would cost about $77 billion over a decade.

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) doesn't think any government will swallow the price tag of universal dental care, calling instead on the federal government to expand the Dental Benefits Act to provide more public oral health care for vulnerable groups, such as people with disabilities.

"By targeting those socio-economic demographics that need it the most, like those in aged care, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and those with low incomes, we could assist in turning around the burden of Australia's oral disease," says Melbourne-based ADA federal president Stephen Liew.