Rural Australia Lagging Behind In Oral Health Standards

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Standards of oral health in remote and rural areas of Australia are still lagging behind those in urban areas, according to research.

A parliamentary inquiry was told that standards of oral health among people living in rural areas are lower than those among city dwellers. The inquiry is trying to establish possible changes and measures, which could help to raise standards and address areas of need before the new National Partnership Agreement comes into play next July.

The government launched an inquiry into inequalities in oral health after research revealed significant differences between standards of oral health among people living in urban areas compared to those living in rural and remote areas and indigenous Australians.

In a committee meeting last week, evidence from the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the Australian Dental Association and Services for the Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health, was submitted and each individual organisation highlighted the need for better access to services in rural areas. The organisations used evidence from Westfund, the only private health fund run dental centre in regional areas.

Grahame Danaher, managing director of Westfund, said that there were three major obstacles facing rural areas, including the cost of dental care, access to dental services and waiting lists and staff recruitment in rural parts, which he described as a “well-known workforce issue.”

The groups will discuss the issue further at a round table meeting in Canberra on Tuesday.

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