Dental care too expensive for many older people

Friday, 26 April, 2024

Dental care too expensive for many older people

Research conducted by COTA Australia has found that nearly 40% of Australians aged 55+ have delayed or put off a dental visit due to cost.

That number increases to 44% of older Australians on lower incomes, which includes many pensioners and those in aged care.

The research, released to mark World Oral Health Day also showed that 73% of all Australians support the introduction of a Seniors Dental Benefits Scheme — a scheme that would give older Australians who need it access to quality, affordable dental care — and four in five people believe dental care should be covered by Medicare.

COTA Australia Chief Executive Officer Patricia Sparrow said the number of older Australians putting off dental care is incredibly alarming given the broader health and welling implications, especially for older people who are particularly susceptible to the overall health impacts of poor dental care.

She said the findings are further evidence that the federal government needs to take urgent steps to introduce a Seniors Dental Benefit Scheme — a scheme recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety for all residents of nursing homes, pensioners or Seniors Healthcare Card holders living in the community.

“The fact that we’ve got four in every 10 older Australians skipping or delaying their dental care should be a real wake-up call to our politicians,” Sparrow said.

“These findings back up what we’re hearing directly from older people. It’s not uncommon for us to hear stories of older Australians not getting the urgent dental work they require simply because it’s too expensive.

“Good oral health is vital for maintaining good overall health, and the risks of not getting the care people need can be incredibly serious — even life-threatening in some extreme cases.

“Having good dental care is essential to good health, no matter what your age. But we know that as you get older the risk of broader health implications increase.”

Sparrow said it is particularly alarming that those on lower incomes, and those who self-identify as struggling financially, are skipping the dentist at the highest rates.

“Having dental bulk billed through Medicare would ensure people can get the care they need, limit the number of people getting ill as a result of not getting the care they need, and will help address our current cost of living crisis. It’s a common sense solution to an increasingly alarming problem impacting millions of Australians of every age.”

Image credit: Polishchuk

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