Oral health is the condition of our entire oral-facial system that allows us to chew, smile, and speak. This includes the overall health of our teeth, gums, and the muscles and bones in our mouth.
In Australia, poor oral health continuously affects many children and adults despite being a highly developed country. In fact, it contributed to 4.5% of all the non-fatal burden conditions placed on the continent in 2022.
There have been many improvements in dental health in Australia over the last 25 to 30 years. Despite these, many Australian citizens are still suffering from poor oral health, mainly tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss.
The Australian government established the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS). It’s a national, means-tested program under the Dental Benefits Act 2008 and the Dental Benefit Rules 2014.
CDBS aims to address declining child oral health in Australia. It helps develop and maintain good oral health early in their lives. With this, the oral health of the broader population will be improved.
Specifically, CDBS supports access to basic dental services. It’s a capped benefit and only for eligible children aged 0–17 years. There’s no need to apply or register for it. Instead, the Australian government will send a letter if the child is qualified for the CBDS.
For reference, CDBS applies to kids children are:
- Aged 0 to 17 years old (at least one day of the current calendar year)
- Able to get eligible payments (at least once in the current calendar year)
The Australian government also reminds the citizens to make a dental care appointment only with their local public dental clinic. For example, if you’re from Brunswick, then only book professional dental care in Brunswick or nearby areas in Melbourne.
For Australian adults, they’ll be collectively included in Australia’s National Oral Health Plan 2015–2024: “Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives.” It aims to reduce the burden of poor oral health and improve oral health status and overall well-being across the Australian population.
Specifically, the plan to take action to the National Oral Health Plan’s six Foundation Areas, which include the following:
- Oral Health Promotion
- Access to Oral Health Care
- Systems Alignment And Integration
- Safety and Quality
- Research and Evaluation
Overall, the National Oral Health Plan aims to reduce the incidence, prevalence, and effects of oral diseases common to many Australian citizens. It also encourages cost savings in dental care by reducing the inequalities in oral health status experienced by priority populations.
The National Oral Health Plan aims to support groups that experience barriers to accessing oral health care in either the private or public sector and have the most and greatest burden of poor oral. These groups are called “Priority Populations.”
The plan identified four priority population groups:
- Socially disadvantaged – low-income earners, government income-assisted individuals, homeless, refugees, culturally and linguistically diverse persons, and those in institutions or correctional facilities
- Indigenous Australians – include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, specifically those with multiple cavities, untreated dental diseases, and less likely to receive preventive dental care
- Rural Australians – include residents of regional, remote areas, and very remote areas who have limited access to dental practitioners and services to their city counterparts
- With additional and/or specialized medical care needs – people who are old and frail, disabled (physically, intellectually, and developmentally), mentally ill, and living with complex medical needs
As mentioned, the first Foundation Area of Australia’s National Oral Health Plan is to improve oral health at both population and individual levels. Key strategies of this national strategic direction include improving:
- The access to fluoride
- The availability of oral health promotion programs (evidence-based)
- The policies of nutrition and oral health in key settings (such as childhood education)
Fluoride is a mineral that’s naturally occurring in our bones and teeth. It’s also a widely known chemical added to toothpaste and mouth rinses to remineralize the tooth enamel and reverse early tooth decay.
The Australian government recommends using fluoridated toothpaste to prevent tooth decay. Tooth brushing with it at least twice a day can mechanically eliminate and control plaque build-up.
They also implemented community water fluoridation. According to the country’s National Health and Medical Research Council, it’s a safe and effective strategy for reducing the risk of dental cavities.
In 2017, a report showed that water fluoridation reduced tooth decay in children and adolescents by up to 44% and in adults by 27%. With these results, access to fluoridated drinking water has improved by 89% in the same year.
In addition to fluoridated toothpaste and water, the Australian government also recommended fissure sealants, especially in children. They create a thin protective layer that acts as a barrier from dental cavities.
Permanent molar teeth (at the back of the mouth) can be difficult to keep clean. They have pits on their surfaces and fissures (look like grooves) that are prone to developing cavities. Fissure sealants are applied to these surfaces, usually on the top of a tooth, to prevent cavities from getting stuck and building up, resulting in tooth decay.
With so many options available in Australia and the availability of online services, finding the right oral healthcare shouldn’t be a rather daunting task. Just remember to opt for options operating within close proximity to your residence as recommended by the Australian government.
Local options aren’t only convenient transportation-wise. They also make dental care and prognosis for treatment success more effective should you or your loved ones ever require prompt or urgent dental care.
However, be sure to choose to consider the clinics’ dentists and team experience level and credentials. Ensure to check whether they have a history of malpractice claims or unlawful acts. Never settle for less because you deserve the best dental care in your area.
Opt for practitioners that offer the services and treatments needed for your or your loved ones’ particular oral health needs, if there are any. There are around seven dentist specialists, namely:
- General Dentist – for routine dental exams, teeth cleanings, and treatments like cavity removal, root canals, and dental crowns
- Orthodontist – specializes in correcting misaligned teeth and jaw and bite disorders, and the ones who offer braces
- Endodontist or Root Canal Specialist – specializes in dealing with issues related to the nerve of a tooth
- Pedodontist or Pediatric Dentist – the dental doctor for children and youth
- Periodontist or Gum Specialist – specializes in treating and repairing gum problems and diseases
- Oral Pathologist or Oral Surgeon – specializes in treating and giving surgeries for oral diseases of the teeth and jaw, including impacted wisdom teeth, misaligned jaws, oral reconstruction, and cancers of the mouth, head, and neck
- Prosthodontist – specializes in cosmetic dentistry, including teeth whitening and veneers
Begin your search by asking your family, friends, acquaintances, or healthcare providers for referrals. They’re likely the most trusted sources you can ever ask from. Online reviews are also helpful, but ensure they’re not paid promotions.
Having good oral health is crucial to our optimal health and well-being. If it’s poor, our ability to eat, socialize, and speak will be negatively affected. It could cause us discomfort, pain, and even embarrassment, which can be stressful and lower our general quality o