Older Australians will continue to endure unnecessary pain and an increased risk of life-threatening conditions due to a lack of funding for much needed oral healthcare in this year’s government budget, according to the New South Wales chapter of the Australian Dental Association (ADA NSW).
“More than six out of 10 over-75s in Australia suffer from gum disease, while more than one in three Australians aged 75 and over have complete tooth loss,” said ADA NSW president Dr. Kathleen Matthews.
“Poor oral health for older Australians costs an estimated $750 million a year, but is also responsible for excruciating pain and contributing to other life-threatening conditions including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, malnutrition, and the risk of pneumonia,” said Matthews.
Also, one in three older Australians put off going to the dentist each year due to cost, the ADA NSW said. Also, the ADA NSW noted that the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recommends that aged care providers engage an oral health practitioner to improve the health of their residents.
“The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety heard distressing evidence of older patients going without basic dental care such as toothbrushing and denture cleaning. Aged care staff and carers do a wonderful job of looking after our seniors, but often lack the knowledge and time needed to provide even basic oral care,” Matthews said.
“The dental profession is committed to providing these services to the Australian community and has successful models of care operating within NSW and the ACT, such as the Senior Smiles program, that with adequate support can become standard practice,” said Matthews.
“ADA NSW and key stakeholders highlighted this issue in its evidence to the Royal Commission, as well as calling for other solutions including improved oral health education for aged care workers,” she said.
“Oral health is a basic human right. We must ensure older Australians live free from oral pain and have adequate nutrition, can communicate freely, and have the best possible quality of life,” Matthews said.
“Sadly, the budget has failed to address the oral health needs faced by older Australians, so ADA NSW will continue to work with key stakeholders on advocating for best models of dental care for our older Australians,” she said.
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