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Posts tagged “Australian dentistry”

Is Australian Dentistry Facing a Crisis?

Funding for dentistry programmes in the town of Knox in the State of Victoria, Australia was cut recently, which has had a pretty devastating effect on dental provision, particularly a shortage of dentists. While Victoria has been hard hit generally, it seems Knox has been hit hardest.

The findings were revealed a recent report, which found that for the past 2 and half years, a third of the residents of Victoria had little or no access to a dentist, with all the dental health problems that obviously incurs.

By contrast the same report also found that the number of patients wanting to see a dentist went up between 2005 and 2010. But unless funding increases dramatically the waiting lists will only get longer.

This increase in funding is exactly what the Australian Dental Association has been urging the Victoria State Government to do. A spokesperson for the local health department, Karyn McPeake told reporters: “Our concern is in the long term … as our population ages, and more people are eligible for a healthcare card, there will be more demand for the public dental service.”

Funding itself for Knox residents dropped from AU$2.3 million to AU$2.2 million last year. Not a seemingly large amount, but it has had a very big effect, as it directly affected the provision of after hours service. This is important, as it has to be remembered that working people generally cannot visit their dentist till after work.

Knox was also affected last year because although money was supposedly allocated to increase the number of dental chairs in the town in order to cut waiting lists, most of the money was reallocated to other areas this year.

Some commentators are perplexed why Australia could be storing up a crisis in dentistry. While the world economic situation is poor, Australia is one nation that on the surface appears to be holding its own.

Dental Costs Off-Putting

Apparently Australian dentists are concerned that rising costs are putting people off dental work, even if they have insurance.

The news came from a recent research carried out by the Social Research Institute, who found that 2 million people in need of dental treatment didn’t visit their dentist simply because they couldn’t afford it.

Seemingly, even those with dental insurance felt it wouldn’t cover the cost of treatment, so decided on balance not to bother.

Speaking with reporters the report’s author, Ryan Williams said: ”The cost issues are impacting not just lower-income households.”

He added: ”They are affecting middle-income households and pushing into the higher brackets as well.”

It appears dental costs are rising everywhere including in Britain. However, currently most of the cost in the UK is paid by the NHS, with only a proportion of the cost paid by the patient. But those with dental insurance could find a similar problem to Australians in the not too distant future.

In Australia where there is a different system, the government is not prepared to fund the increasing costs. Officials say in the current economic climate it is just not possible to do so. Commenting on this, Associate Professor Zoellner, who is head of oral pathology and oral medicine at the University of Sydney, said: ”There are no competitive factors in dentistry. It’s not so much the profession has priced people out but it’s a free-market system.

The difference in the medical market is the federal government provides rebates across the entire population. Medicare creates a competitive pressure in an unusual situation where demand still outstrips supply … Most dentists are fundamentally decent people but it’s a free market.”

Continuing, professor Zoellner added: ”There’s increasing evidence that if you have unsatisfactory dental care you get worse strokes, worse heart disease, worse control of diabetes, more amputations, more kidney failure, more blindness,”

‘Having a face full of pus and losing huge chunks of jawbone to infection itself is a serious health problem. You wouldn’t tolerate it in any other part of the skull. You’d be really worried. That’s a hole in your head. But we’re not in the healthcare system, so people just have to tolerate it. We have this weird anomaly where the mouth isn’t regarded as part of the body.”

Are Standards Slipping in Australian Dentistry?

A recent study found that more students fail dentistry exams than the medical equivalent, forcing them to re-train and re-sit their exams.

Statistics appear to show that at Sydney University 2 students from the class of 2010 had to sit their final exam three times before passing. What’s more dental students are in general 10 times more likely to fail their finals than medical students. This is a failure rate of 1 in 7.

These statistics, plus the fact that there is a growing complaints phenomenon occurring in New South Wales, means many people, particularly students are wondering if standards are slipping in the training of dentists. One student told reporters: “The rot starts at the university level. There is simply a very poor level of training … Most of us graduate with a requirement, with very little experience.”

The student added:  ”There is entrenched protectionism in the profession – starting from universities … pushing through students, right through to the [Australian Dental Association] maintaining its monopoly pricing on the service.”

Commenting on the statistics, Liz Martin, who is associate professor at the University’s of Sydney’s faculty of dentistry, said: ”Some had failed in the written component; some had failed in the [oral] component. The remaining ones were held back for clinical reasons.”

However, despite the apparent awfulness of the figures the dean of the faculty was more upbeat about the situation, Chris Peck said: ”Really, by the time that you get to final year, those that are not suitable for the course have actually failed back in first year or second year.”

Whether this comment is comforting for any patients who complain about their dentist, remains to be seen. Somehow, it seems doubtful.

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