What Australia’s Health Panel said about dental and oral healthcare - April 2024

In 2023, panellists told us: 

  • Dental care is out of reach for many Australians; our panellists reported problems accessing affordable dental services.  

  • The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis have increased strain on the availability of dental services. 

  • Dental health is essential to general health and the health system needs to reflect this. 

  • Panellists were very supportive of efforts to improve dental care in Australia. 

In 2023, the rising cost-of-living and the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were being felt by many consumers, including those with and without private health insurance.  Treatment costs were reported to be the primary barrier to receiving timely dental care, with some panellists reporting delaying or forgoing necessary dental services, even though this could lead to worse outcomes and higher costs in the long term. 

Panellists were highly likely to be supportive of potential solutions to improve dental services in Australia. Nine-out-of-ten panellists supported more dental services being made available through Medicare. There were also very high levels of support for improving services available to aged care residents. Panellists were also highly likely to support improved access to dental services in under serviced areas, via mobile services or incentives to practitioners to work in rural and remote areas.  

Support for education programs in schools was strong; and three-out-of-four panellists backed expanding the Child Benefits Scheme to cover dental procedures for all children. Around three quarters of panellists supported mandatory oral health training for health care workers, establishing a Chief Dental Officer to co-ordinate population oral health and improving access to fluoridated water.   

In response, CHF supports calls for a more integrated health system, with dental and oral care included under Medicare, better provision of dental care in aged care facilities, and  the introduction of incentives and programs to address the inequities in access to dental services.