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!