Dental Issues Still The Main Reason Children Admitted to Hospital: Can Dentists Do More?

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Dental Issues Still The Main Reason Children Admitted to Hospital: Can Dentists Do More?

  1. Home
  2. Dental Articles
  3. Children’s Dentistry Articles
  4. Dental Issues Still The Main Reason Children Admitted to Hospital: Can Dentists Do More?
Dental Issues Still The Main Reason Children Admitted To Hospital Can Dentists Do More At Gisborne Macedon Riddells Creek In Gisborne Dental House

Why are we seeing little kids with oral health problems having to be admitted to hospital in Australia? Dental issues are still the main reason children admitted to hospital: Can dentists do more? Are dentists too busy focusing their services on the pots of gold derived from their adult clients in the wealthier parts of our cities? Is it the fact, that Medicare and dentistry live in different parts of the galaxy here in Australia a major reason why disadvantaged kids are getting short shrift when it comes to their dental care?

“Thousands of kids are hospitalised unnecessarily every year for oral health conditions that are entirely preventable – and it’s a trend that’s getting worse. Often when admitted there’s insufficient theatre space for child dental patients to receive the operations they need. Paediatric dentists estimate around 1,500 fewer infants and children a year get their operation and are left suffering for long periods in pain and discomfort as a result. New data* released for World Oral Health Day today (March 20) from the Australian Dental Association’s (ADA)’s updated Oral Health Tracker shows almost 11 in every 1,000 children aged 5-9 were admitted to Australian hospitals for preventable dental conditions in 2021-2022, compared to 9.5 per 1,000 in 2018. Further, 14 in every 1,000 Indigenous children aged 5-9 were admitted to Australian hospitals for preventable dental conditions in 2021-2022, compared to 11.5 per 1,000 in 2018.”

Australian Kids Suffering With Dental Health Issues

We have a two speed economy down-under in Oz, where millionaire home owners have world class dentistry at their fingertips whilst the working poor, the renters, do it tough when it comes to affording big ticket services like dental care. The Indigenous population is woefully neglected, especially in regional Australia, where Indigenous kids suffer the most in terms of their health and wellbeing. The data listed above tells us that things are getting worse not better in the so called ‘lucky country’. Lucky if you are white and born into a wealthy family.

Conservative Neoliberal Economics & Its Health Care Outcomes In Australia

The push after a decade of LNP conservative federal governments has been toward a ‘user pays’ economic model. We have seen a regressive flattening of taxation favouring the wealthier end of town. The Stage 3 tax cuts, prior to PM Albanese tinkering with them, is a clear example of this. Corporations pay less and less tax in Australia, as do multi-millionaires and billionaires. The working poor is the fastest growing demographic in this country. Home ownership is now out of reach for a huge percentage of the population. Younger Aussies are priced out of the market and are paying exorbitant residential rents at around 60% of their weekly income. Meanwhile, the big 4 banks continue to reap record profits in the billions every year. We are heading toward the American model, which is where the Coalition would like to see us. More Americans become bankrupt from not being able to pay their medical bills than for any other single reason. Private equity takeovers have made this situation even worse and we are seeing hospital takeovers by private equity here in Australia. Warren Buffet, the renowned investor, has declared private equity firms as basically dishonest in their approach to do doing business. When you make health care a ‘for profit’ sector you end up with winners and losers. Large swathes of the population fall into the loser category and suffer poor health outcomes because they cannot afford it. Dentistry in Australia is already in this camp.

“A total of 75 private equity acquisitions of health care delivery assets in Australia during 2008–2022 were identified; the annual number rose from three acquisitions in 2008 to eighteen in 2022. During 2008–2010, five of seven acquisitions were of in vitro fertilisation providers; during 2020–2022, 22 of 39 acquisitions were of clinics or clinic groups, including eleven of eighteen in 2022. The total value of the 39 acquisitions for which purchase price could be ascertained (52%) was $24.1 billion. During 2017–2022, the clinic specialty with the greatest number of private equity acquisitions was general practice (256 of 446 clinics purchased within acquisitions). Seven companies owning ophthalmology clinics (24 clinics) were acquired by private equity. Four private equity acquisitions during 2017–2022 included 60 oncology clinics, all related to a single clinic group.”

Dental Issues Still The Main Reason Children Admitted To Hospital Can Dentists Do More In Gisborne Macedon Riddells Creek At Gisborne Dental House

Dental Care Needs To Be Included In Medicare

Dental issues still the main reason children admitted to hospital: Can dentists do more? Running a dental practice is no small thing, as it costs a lot of money in terms of investment to establish it. Dentists are not baddies per se, despite what Michelle Bullock, the RBA governor, thinks about their part in increasing rates to make inflation more sticky in Australia. Rather, it is the whole set up and where the sector finds itself in relation to other health care professionals and providers. The framework makes dentistry an expensive luxury for Australians rather than a part of their universal health care insurance system. It is a nonsensical situation and must be addressed, if we are to improve the oral health care of children in Australia. We are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on our maritime national security on the proviso we may face hostilities in 2040 and beyond. Whereas our dental problems for our children are real and here now. Dentists can continue to make noise about this issue to raise awareness with the pubic about it. The ADA wants more government funding for programs designed to reduce the suffering of Indigenous kids and poorer children, more broadly, when it comes to their dental care. A bigger discussion needs to be had about including dental care in Medicare. Teeth can no longer stand outside of the rest of our body, as some strange outlier. All the evidence points toward the key role our oral health plays in determining our health and wellbeing.

Do We Want Good Dentists Or Good Entrepreneurs?

Our dentists and doctors deserve to be well renumerated for their top class services to the Australian public. However, we force many of them to become small businessmen and women, sometimes to the detriment of their craft. You not only have to be a well trained dentist, in many cases, you must also be an excellent business person. Good business folk look after the bottom line first and foremost. Servicing those who struggle to afford your services may not be the smartest move for many dentists, under the current system. More Australian families are forced to seek charity and welfare in this current economic climate. When asking the question – why do the children have to suffer? We need to take a good hard look at the set up long established. User pays is no solution to the housing crisis or the dental care issues facing poorer Australians and their children. We need to fix a broken system.

“That’s thousands of children being hospitalised for preventable oral issues every year,” said ADA President Dr Scott Davis. “It’s hard to believe in a first world country like Australia, with most people having access to fluoridated water, healthy food and the tools for keeping mouths clean and decay-free that this is still happening – but it is. “There are complex reasons for this. Cost is always an issue and this continued trend of children needing to go to hospital to get their oral health problems fixed, indicates that we have a significant problem today and for the future. “Every state and territory provides free dental care for eligible children so they can see a private or public dentist under the Child Dental Benefits Schedule – but there needs to be considerably more effective, targeted publicity of the scheme as it’s currently only used by 38% of eligible families.”
– Australian Dental Association, 20 March 2024


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