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 health in this year’s budget, according to the NSW branch of the Australian Dental Association.
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.
Poor oral health for older Australians costs an estimated $750m 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.
“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,” ADA NSW president Dr Kathleen Matthews said.
“Aged care staff and carers do a wonderful job looking after our seniors, but often lack the knowledge and time needed to provide even basic oral care.”
Dr Matthews added that 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.
Moreover, 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.
“Oral health is a basic human right,” Dr Matthews said.
“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.
“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.”