Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Give Us A Smile Then

Apparently, Australia has a public dental system. I didn't know, I've never used it because I have private health insurance. Tonight I watched 'Insight' a panel show which happened to be discussing the plight of public dental health in Australia. I'm a bit thingy about my teeth. I look after them, I brush and floss and pick and twitch. My ancient fillings drop out whenever I chew gum or bite on a vita wheat so I was quite interested. Apparently 90% of Australia's dentists are located in cities and in private practice. There is no Medicare (public health) rebate. 10% work in the public system, usually entrenched in or adjacent to our big hospitals. We have 2, two, duo, dos, public dentist as part of the Flying Doctor Service who cover rural Australia and often their 3 hour drive is met by a 2 hour plane flight by some suffering farmer who needs a root canal!

Australians are going overseas, to Thailand and the like to have cosmetic dentistry because it's cheaper than health cover here. I pay $300 a month in health care and can claim just $700 a year on family dentistry. My recent root canal cost $640 (okay there were a couple of veneer's thrown in). Fluoride in the water we are told has enhanced dental health . . . maybe so . . . and a new initiative by the Rudd Government to inspect teenagers' dental health is being poo-poo'd by the doubters.

The bottom line is, oral hygiene is a predictor of health. If I've had chemo or radiation therapy that has fucked my teeth, I should be allowed to have cost effective treatment. Well apparently I can . .but I have to virtually have some form of sepsis and present to and emergency department to get things fixed. Why is there no medicare rebate for dentistry? 40% of Australians don't visit a dentist, 32,000 a year are hospitalised with severe dentally related disease and a growing group of Australians are going to Thailand or Malaysia to have their dental hygiene attended to . ..because it's cheaper than being in Australia. This flabbergasts me in a country where public health is generally very good. It seems that if you have an abscess on your arse it's more economically treated than an abscess on your gums.

Our current Government with whom I have been hitherto impressed have cancelled a scheme which aids public dentistry . .mainly due to the fact that health is controlled by the states. Now that we have a Labour Government and all labour states, wouldn't you think they'd agree? Apparently one poor soul poured battery acid on his aching tooth to relieve the pain. Only the chronically ill receive a Medicare rebate on dentistry. Who's to blame? Greedy dentists who have cushy practices in city limits or the State Governments for not considering the mouth as important as the arse!

We've all received tax cuts after the recent May Budget. That money, put towards dental health would accumulate around $4 billion . . surely that's enough to make sure we all have happy healthy smiles (apologies to Steph for stealing her thunder). I'm really annoyed that I can't get a rebate for my dental health . . I'm really annoyed that Dentists don't want to be part of the Medicare system . . I'm even more annoyed that this very basic health need is ignored by State and Commonwealth governments who are supposed to be on the same side!

18 comments:

Thriftcriminal said...

Huh? Even in this misbegotten country which was (until recently) lead by the worst "socialist" ever allows me to get my teeth checked every 6 months and given a bit of a scrape - all covered by my social insurance. I tend to look after mine as I am missing a few genetically. No wisdom teeth and a couple of molars that just never were. And the only filling I have is in a milk tooth that is still hanging in there for dear life.

Baino said...

I know! I told Clare, who's travelling on a British Passport to get all her dental checked whilst in the UK. We have such a good 'health' system but oral care is so neglected. I was shocked quite frankly because I have private health care, I've never been in the public dental system.

My Dad had amazing teeth . . up to being 75 years old only ever had them cleaned. Hahah beat you I have four wisdom teeth! C I realised after writing this that I'm a tooth snob. (and shouldn't you be working right now?)

Nick said...

A subject dear to my heart, Baino. The Oz scenario is what we'll end up with here the way things are going. NHS dentists are increasingly scarce as more and more dentists go private saying NHS work doesn't pay them enough and can't be done properly. Many people in the UK don't go to a dentist any more unless it's an emergency. The Labour government's letting the situation get worse just as the previous Tory government did. And the Tories, who look like winning the next general election, will carry on where they left off before.

The Oz figures of 40% not going to the dentist and 32,000 a year being hospitalised are truly shocking. As you say, the tax cut money could have radically improved dentistry. And guess what, our David Cameron's already promising tax cuts when he gets in....

Baino said...

Nick: From what I gathered from the program tonight, it's a two way street. Dentists can earn so much in the private sector that they RESIST, being brought into the Medicare system or practising in rural areas,so it's not just a case of Government Funding.

Clearly the north is a little different to Thrifty's haven . . I think it odd that dental health is not considered as important as other bodily health. Then I'm still coming to terms with the division between NI and the Republic . .strange fish you lot are.

Brianf said...

Waaaaaahhhhhh, the Nanny state isn't keeping me safe from my self!!!
I'm amazed every time to hear you neo-coms wail on and on about how you actually want to pay more taxes for yet another huge, inefficient, ill-run government burocracy.

Thriftcriminal said...

Probably. When did that ever stop me? I have 24 teeth, but have never lost one to decay.

Nick said...

The Republic and NI are very different in a lot of ways, obviously since NI is part of the UK. Except that the political parties are mainly NI ones, and you can't actually vote Labour or Liberal Democrat here. And the banks are mainly NI ones as well with their own banknotes. On the other hand, the currency and the postage stamps are the same. Sure, you'll have it all straight in another 50 years, so you will.

And I've got two more teeth than Thrifty. The other six were taken out as a kid because my jaws were too small.

TheWeyrd1 said...

My father died a year ago from oral cancer. My family was big on brushing teeth and small on going to the dentist. I went alot when I had coverage. I let the dang stuff slip when I thought I was getting a job with coverage. That didn't work out though. I am mostly self employed (finance biz) and keep up all my other coverages, so if this new job thing I'm considering doesn't pan out, I'm off to get some new dental insurance!

Absolute Vanilla (& Atyllah) said...

I pay for private healthcare, like you and like you, I probably pay around the same amount - and that entitles me to the princely number of two visits to the dentist each year for a routine check up, that's it, nothing else. Greed has overtaken all aspects of the healthcare industry pretty much everywhere and all medics are now obliged to take a Hypocritic Oath.

Baino said...

Brianf: And your government is 'efficient'? Merrygorounds and swings as far as I can see, you pay less tax but more for medical/dental, we pay more tax and less for medical dental. It's free if we want it to be or we insure if we want our own doctor and a private hospital. We have a choice! I know where I'd rather live! And thanks to the nanny state including fluoride in the water, me and my family pay fewer visits to the dentist!

Thrifty: Good point! Nah, me neither but I haven't got time to count my teeth.

Nick: Sounds confusing. So I should bring three currencies with me when I visit?

Theweyrd1: Welcome over. That's awful, I'm sorry for your loss. That's one 'good' thing about being employed in the US I guess, you have medical and dental included in your salary package. I once wored for an American firm and they offered the same to their Australian employees. Here we are paid more but taxed higher to cover the 'system'. I don't mind paying tax as long as the services are delivered, and by and large they are. Dental is one that's slipped through the cracks. Your father however, would have been treated through the public system here as a 'medical' case and would not have been out of pocket.

AV: I hate that Dentists themselves have opted out of the system. Partly because extraction in the public sector is a better solution than ongoing care which generates a shit load of income for them. I recently sponsored Painless Pete's family trip to Paris! I get a bit more than a visit for my insurance but not enough for anything complex. In fact it's impossible to get full health insurance for all dental procedures here. It simply doesn't exist.

steph said...

Baino - I pay €1,500 in personal insurance per annum for full cover of 'in-patient' care in a high tech facility. I shouldn't have to pay this sort of money for healthcare but I've little choice with my medical history, and the poor state of our public health service.

However, that premium provides very little cover for out-patient services such as consultant visits, GP, physiotherapy and dentistry. I have to take out additional insurance for that yet can still only claim for a very small percentage of expenses incurred. My OP costs can be crippling.

Private dentistry costs are huge in Ireland though they are allowable against tax but only for procedures such as root canal and crowns. Many people opt to travel to N. Ireland or East European countries where services are much more affordable. Many simply cannot afford dental care and suffer the consequences. My teeth are pretty good luckily - at least one bit of me works!

Baino said...

Steph I empathise with you in particular. I guess that's why some Aussies are going to Thailand and Malaysia to clinics which specialise in treating tourists! Many of whom have trained here so if you do your homework, they're not dodgy and almost worth the plane fare for extensive repair work. I'm covered for a couple of fillings and minor repairs. The root canal I had last year was paid for out of my own pocket. My hospitalisation last year mind you cost around $5,000 and I paid $100. I finally feel I'm getting value for my 30 years of private health care!

Nick said...

Sterling in the UK/NI, euro in the Republic. Obviously we should have euro in the UK, but the "Keep the jolly old pound" brigade is still in the ascendancy.

I can see consultants, GPs and physios free, and I get free prescriptions because I'm over 60. Only problem is, the waiting lists for consultants and physios can easily be a year. So if you want immediate attention, you have to cough up to go private.

Anonymous said...

Who is your dentist Baino? I pay at least a $1000 whether every two years or ten! When a single Mum, my first born had an open bite (shark mouth) so went for years through the public system with his teeth which included speech therapy. I couldn't face the public waiting room any more ...

Melissa said...

Oh, that battery acid tale made me cringe! I used to neglect my teeth, but thankfully they put up with it pretty well ... when I finally got back in the chair, my doc wouldn't let me leave until I had been cleaned, x-rayed, had two fillings put in and two old ones replaced. I was glowing when I left! :D Now I go every six months. My doctor is cute, so it's not so painful. hee hee. That's too bad that dental care is falling through the cracks. :(

Paddy Bloggit said...

Think I'll get dentures! :wink:

Nick said...

Paddy - You think you're joking? We're heading back to the days when brides had all their teeth extracted and dentures fitted to save a lifetime of crippling dental bills.

Baino said...

Anony: Painless Pete Polisi Best in the world and worth every penny!I'd just feel more comfortable if I didn't have to walk past his Porsche parked in the carpark every morning!

Melissa: A cute dentist? Really . .surely you jest . .then I don't look my best accounting for the day's events with my mouth wide open and a plethora of stainless steel sticking out "oo ha i fie ank oo"

Paddy: They cost even more, make you sound whistley or lispy and they fall out when you laugh . . brush twice a day and floss after every meal!

Nick: OUCH! Surely not in this day of crowns and veneers . . .they should stop buying plasma screens and get a dental plan!