Less than a month after the Federal Government announced a "landmark reform" to commonwealth dental funding, recent findings from the largest nationwide child dental study in 25 years has the Australian Dental and Oral Health Therapists Association (ADOHTA) calling for a "less talk and more action", on delivering effective and affordable oral health care a priority for all Australians.
ADOHTA President Hellene Platell says that while some of the findings of the recently released research by the University of Adelaide comes as no surprise to practicing Oral Health Professionals (OHPs), the figures produced further evidence that more needs to be done in the prevention and treatment of decay in both child and adult populations.
"The research released today by the University of Adelaide is certainly of extreme cause for concerns for those in our industry and for all Australians, both with or without children."
"The findings themselves speak to what many OHPs have been saying for years, that Australia has an issue in delivering effective and affordable oral health care to its population and something needs to be done about it."
The findings of the research stated that nearly half of all primary school kids have decayed baby teeth, and one in seven children in the age group of 9-14 year olds had not previously been treated for decay in permanent teeth. Ms Platell has used findings such as these to call for action.
"We have an intergovernmental National Oral Health Plan which says 100 per cent of children should see a dentist, however we have studies, such as these found that only one in nine children never made a dental visit."
"With the recent changes made to commonwealth dental funding, our organisation only sees these issues becoming more of a problem for Australians, both young and old."
OHPs are made up of qualified professionals including Dental Therapists, Oral Health Therapists and Dental Hygienists. Ms Platell says that the government of the day needs to look at better utilisation of this workforce.
She adds that better utilisation of the OHP workforce is key to addressing the gaps which currently exist in the oral health service delivery, particularly amongst vulnerable populations, such as families on lower income, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and the elderly.
"We are in the process of consulting with State governments around Australia, the private health insurance industry as well as the major parties at the federal level."
"For over 10 years our organisation has been calling for the better use and recognition of the OHP workforce, which could potentially have huge saving implications for the Commonwealth, States and Territories."
"These findings should now, more than ever, alert governments nationwide to stand up and take practical evidence based actions to fix the issues at hand and provide effective and affordable oral health care for all Australians"
Ms Platell says Australia has invested in building the capacity of OHPs by advancing their training and education (three-year bachelor degrees), and since 2010, registering them nationally through the Australian Health Professionals Registration Agency.
"We believe that OHPs can be supported to work in ways that make a greater contribution to improving the oral and general health of Australians, in our cities and in rural, regional and remote areas."