The Victorian Labor government will fund free dental care for primary and secondary students at government schools if it wins the next election – a move welcomed by health groups.
Premier Daniel Andrews said his party would roll out 250 dental vans providing 630,000 children with free check-ups, cleaning, fillings, root canals and other general dental procedures.
Andrews said the $395.8 million initiative would save families $400 per child each year.
“You won’t have to take a day off work just to get the kids to the dentist anymore,” he said on Twitter. “But it’s not just about that. A quarter of Australian children have untreated tooth decay. In Victoria, dental conditions are the highest cause of preventable hospitalisations for kids under 10.”
The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) welcomed the pledge.
AHHA strategic programs director Dr Chris Bourke said re-introducing a school-based public dental van service will reach many children who currently miss out on dental care.
“In Australia, 25 per cent of children have untreated decayed teeth,” Bourke said. “And every year thousands of children require a visit to hospital and a general anaesthetic to manage decay that has gotten out of control.
“Timely treatment can reduce these preventable hospitalisations and lessen the impact of dental disease on children and their families.”
The former dentist added that reaching out to children and families through schools is an effective way to improve access to dental care. “Oral disease is one of the most common and expensive diseases to treat, but it is also the most preventable.”
Andrews said the program would be reviewed in 2021 with the view to expand it to low-fee independent and Catholic schools.
AHHA urged the Commonwealth and the other states and territories to follow suit and step up their commitment to public dental health services.Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]