There are a number of different factors which influence the funding of dental services, with Commonwealth funding varying widely between political parties. The Coalition has tended to favour state-based public dental services and has supported private health insurance incentives for dental care. It has also introduced means-tested Medicare benefits for preventative health checks for teenagers.
Regulation of dental practices
In a recent announcement, McConnell Dental have joined forces to improve standards of infection control in dental practice. They have restricted the registration of 12 registered dentists in NSW, who were involved in practices in inner western Sydney. Six of them have been suspended and two have been placed on conditional registration. These actions follow an investigation into serious breaches of infection control. NSW Health has also announced that it will review the records of patients who have visited these clinics.
The report finds that dentists are the subject of more complaints to health regulators than any other registered health profession in Australia. These complaints usually relate to procedures and treatments, including implant surgery and endodontics. Many of these practices are high-risk, and the majority of procedures are irreversible. In addition, dentists often work with conscious patients and perform many procedures each day.
Australian dental practitioners are required to adhere to the codes and ethics set by their professional associations. This code, developed by the Australian Dental Industry Association, ensures that dental practices make decisions on the appropriate use of dental products and services based on evidence-based guidelines.
Regulation of dental hygienists
The government has recently reviewed the Regulation of Dental Hygienists in Australia, which outlines the duties of this profession. These responsibilities include following the directions of a registered dentist and complying with regulations governing dental hygiene. The review is also a part of a larger strategic review of manpower planning in the healthcare sector, which is focused on the development of professional skills and planning for the projected demand for healthcare manpower. This review covers 13 disciplines, including dental hygienists.
The main role of a dental hygienist is to provide preventive dental care to patients, educating them about oral hygiene and nutrition. They also help patients recover from dental procedures, and they may make mouthguards to protect them. A dental hygienist may also apply fluorides, sealants, and professional tooth whitening agents. They also remove sutures and post-surgical dressings. In order to practice dentistry in Australia, a dental hygienist must be registered with the Dental Board of Australia.
Dental hygienists are members of a dental team, and they use a variety of clinical methods to prevent and manage oral diseases. They work alongside dentists and dental nurses, and may even treat patients who have special needs. They can practice in schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and institutions, among others.
Regulation of dental assistants
The profession of dental assisting has not been professionally registered in Australia. Despite this fact, dental assistants play an important role in Australia’s oral health workforce. More than 18,000 dental assistants are employed in Australia, more than any other division of the dental profession combined. In 2010, the Australian government introduced a National Law, which attempted to bring uniform regulation to the profession. While this Act has not included dental assistants, it is a step in the right direction.
In Australia, dental assistants are permitted to perform basic dental procedures under the supervision of a qualified dentist. This includes preparing patients for dental examinations and assisting dental practitioners, hygienists, and therapists. They are employed almost exclusively in the Health and Social Assistance sector, but can also work as a Dentist or Dental Hygienist.
However, there are significant risks in allowing untrained dental assistants to practice. There are instances of untrained assistants doing dental work who cause harm to patients. The dental profession has failed to recognise these risks and has not mandated training for these staff.
Public funding of dental services
Public funding of dental services in Australia has a long history, but has shifted over time. The Commonwealth’s contribution under the National Partnership Agreement, which expires next year, is currently around A$108 million per year. But the federal government also subsidizes dental care with more than A$700 million a year. The Child Dental Benefits Schedule provides free dental care for children aged five to seventeen, and more than half of Australians are covered by it.
While dental services are free under the Australian health system, waiting lists for treatment can be long. In Western Australia, the average wait time for a dental appointment is 87 days. In Tasmania, it can take as many as 916 days. The Commonwealth has also funded dental programs, but these have come and gone as governments have changed. Another option is to buy private health insurance, but this can be expensive and does not protect you from unforeseen costs.
The CDBS program allows patients to check their eligibility and the balance of their CDBS entitlement online. It is part of the myGov and Medicare online accounts. Dental practices can also check eligibility online through HPOS, the Australian Government’s Health Professionals Online Service. This program covers dental services performed in public and private clinics, and includes the costs of general anaesthesia/sedation in a day procedure.