Calls for national dental health scheme

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The Federal Government is under growing pressure to set up a Medicare-style dental health scheme, following a report revealing the extent of Australia's dental health problems.

The Federal Government is under growing pressure to set up a Medicare-style dental health scheme, following a report revealing the extent of Australia's dental health problems.

A study commissioned by the Brotherhood of St Laurence has found that millions of Australians can't afford to visit a dentist.

The study says the cost of dental care in Australia is costing the national economy more than $A1.3 billion in lost employment, and that at least one million work -days and at least 600,000 school-days are lost each year because of poor dental health.

Nicola Ballenden from the Brotherhood of St Laurence says the cost of poor dental health is borne by people at least able to afford it.

The Brotherhood is calling for urgent action to provide affordable dental care, and the introduction of a universal dental scheme.

"For disadvantaged people (a universal scheme) means cost isn't a barrier to care so they're not going to delay going to a dentists because of cost," Nicola Ballenden told SBS.

It's a proposal that has been backed by a government advisory group, the National Advisory Council on Dental Health.

The Greens have seen the group's confidential interim report. They say it recommends a major investment in dental health.

"It also says that the aim should be a universal scheme a scheme like Medicare so that essentially the mouth is treated like the rest of the body, so there's no good reason to separate the two," Greens Senator Richard Di Natale told SBS.

A separate study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found more than 50-per cent of 6-year olds suffer from tooth decay.

Labor says it will unveil its dental plan as part of next year's budget.

A universal dental scheme would cost billions of dollars, and at a time of government belt-tightening, it might have to consider a special levy to pay for it.

Source: SBS

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