Dental neglect comes back to bite Queenslanders
QUEENSLANDERS have the worst oral health in the country due to high dentals costs, long waiting periods and a lack of fluoridated drinking water, according to health experts.
A new report released last night by the Grattan Institute revealed a shocking two million Australians each year avoid or delay going to the dentist because it is too expensive.
Researchers argued visiting the dentist should be treated the same as seeing a GP, saying in the report there was "no compelling, medical, economic, or legal reason to treat the mouth so differently from the rest of the body".
Queensland was the worst state in the country, with 20.5 per cent of people missing out on dental care, which was much higher than the national average of 18.4 per cent.
Grattan Institute health program director Stephen Duckett said there were poorer dental outcomes in Queensland due to a lack of fluoridation regulations.
He said this had put pressure on the public health system, meaning longer waiting times and many people unable to afford private treatment.
"I think the State Government needs to make a decision that if we are to improve the dental health of Queenslanders, the first step is to ensure that every major water delivery system has fluoridation and that there should be a strategy to increase the proportion of Queenslanders who are drinking fluoridated water every day," he said.
Mr Duckett said the science around fluoridation was very clear and there was no evidence of negative outcomes.
"What we need to be doing is saying fluoridation is an essential part of public health and an essential part of moving forward on getting better dental outcomes for Queenslanders," he said.
The Courier-Mail this month reported on Queensland's tooth rot crisis, with experts saying children are lining up each day for extractions and tens of thousands end up in hospital each year for dental work.
Research from Grattan Institute found most spending on dental care comes directly out of the patient's pocket, and as a result people can't afford the care unless they go on sometimes multi-year waiting lists for public care.
The researchers believe the existing public dental schemes are "inadequate, uncoordinated and over inequitable across states".
"Most states have waiting lists of well over a year for public dental care - and if people need to wait a year for care, their conditions are only going to get worse," researchers wrote.
The consequence of this is widespread poor oral health, with the study finding adults admitting they avoid some foods because of the condition of their teeth.
Oral health has also proven to contribute to other health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.
Mr Duckett told The Courier-Mail the Government and Opposition should move towards a universal primary dental care scheme, funded by the Commonwealth Government and create a 10-year strategy on how to get there.
He said the first step should be getting access for pensioners and healthcare card holders.