Filling the gaps
Tuesday, 13th March, 2012
‘Incentives needed to attract dentists’
By Emily Roberts
Giving dentists similar incentives to doctors who work in the bush would go some way to fixing the poor state of oral health in rural and remote areas, according to a local dentist.
A recently released report from the National Advisory Council on Dental Health suggests people in rural and remote areas, particularly children and adults on low incomes, suffer with poor oral health.
The Council’s task was to provide advice on dental policy options and priorities for consideration in the 2012-13 federal budget.
The report said that people with private health insurance visited the dentist more often than those without private health insurance.
“Across all age groups, people with private health insurance were 1.5 times more likely to have visited a dentist in the previous 12 months,” the report said.
Local dentist Greg Cocks said people without private health cover were at a disadvantage when it came to oral health because they had to rely on the public system.
“Pensioners on health care cards or other disadvantaged people like Indigenous people can’t afford access to this sort of dentistry,” Dr Cocks said.
“People that can’t afford private health access dentistry in the public health sector.”
And the more isolated people are the harder it is to access dental care. The Royal Flying Doctor Service has for some time provided aero-dental services to isolated communities in the region.
“They have a couple of dentists treating people in regional areas,” Dr Cocks said.
“The RFDS identified this as a worthwhile exercise and are trying it in other areas.”
But Dr Cocks said the inequities in access needed to be addressed more broadly.
The federal government, he said, has poured money into opening up new dental school’s to train dentists in the hope it would encourage dentists to work in rural and remote areas.
“I think getting dentists to actually came out here (is important), not just dentists but dental therapists and hygienists as well,” he said.
“There should be more of a preventative focus.”
He suggested dentists should get the same incentives as medical students and have their Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) debt removed if they work in the outback.
“It is a very easy solution and you earn a lot more in the bush than the city.”
Dr Cocks’ advice to maintain oral health includes having regular dental examinations, to try and clean them in an appropriate manner every day and to reduce the amount of fermentable carbohydrates for example sugar.