Disparity in oral health care access in rural areas

Tuesday, 29 August 2023
Girl drinking water from pipe
Photo: Karen Wilder

The Alliance made several key recommendations before the Senate Select Committee into the Provision of and Access to Dental Services in Australia, during a hearing in Launceston on 24 August 2023.

Appearing before the Senate Select Committee as part of the rural themed verbal hearings, Alliance Policy and Research Officer, Marnie Connelly presented the case for improving access to care and oral health outcomes for Australians living rurally.

“The key recommendations included the increase and implementation of appropriate funding mechanisms to support flexible public oral health service delivery to rural Australians,” said Ms Connolly.

“Implementation of workforce interventions aiming to increase the prevalence of primary healthcare professionals, including dentists and other oral health practitioners, continuing funding for community-based oral health services in rural areas, commitment by the federal and state governments to a National Rural Health Strategy and commitment to the recommendations from the National Oral Health Alliance (of which the Alliance is a member) were some of the other recommendations.

“Recommendations also included the support of training programs for the recruitment and retention of dental health professionals where oral health was needed,” said Ms Connolly.

Rural Australians have access to fewer dental practitioners than their city counterparts and, overall, have poorer oral health than people in major cities. Oral health status generally declines as remoteness increases.

People in rural areas face other barriers to oral health including lack of water fluoridation, lack of oral health practitioners and oral health preventative measures, geographic isolation, and transport costs.

The Alliance views the disparity in accessing oral health care for Australians living in rural areas as unacceptable and believes this needs to be addressed.

Click here to access the Alliance’s submission to this inquiry: https://www.ruralhealth.org.au/document/senate-select-committee-provision-and-access-dental-services-australia

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