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Closing the dental divide

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To the Editor: Russell noted the importance of oral health to general health and quality of life, and the substantial costs of dental treatment.1 In 2012–13, $8.3 billion was spent on dental treatment in Australia.2

A recently released Health Workforce Australia report3 indicated that Australia has a more than sufficient dental workforce. The dental workforce distribution between remote and metropolitan areas is altering as graduate dentists move to outer regional and remote areas,4 although there are many regional and remote areas that will never be able to support full-time dental services due to low population numbers.4

Unlike medical care, dental care is overwhelmingly supplied in the private sector.5 Russell’s solution is to transfer the costs of dental care from the patient to the government.

The National Oral Health Plan 2004–2013 identified six populations for specific action to improve oral health outcomes: children and adolescents, older people, people with low incomes and with social disadvantage, people with special needs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and those living in rural and remote areas.

It would be more practical…