“Wake up call” as 37% of over-55s delay dental visits due to costs


New research reveals that nearly four in ten Australians aged 55 and over have postponed or avoided dental visits in the past year due to financial concerns.

This concerning trend disproportionately affects older Australians on lower incomes, with 44% reporting delaying or skipping dental care. The findings, released by COTA Australia to coincide with World Oral Health Day, underscore the urgent need for accessible and affordable dental services for seniors.

COTA Australia CEO, Patricia Sparrow, emphasised the alarming implications of delaying dental care, particularly for older individuals who are more susceptible to the health impacts of poor oral health. She highlighted the critical need for government action to address this pressing issue, calling for the introduction of a Seniors Dental Benefits Scheme (SDBS) to provide affordable dental care for older Australians.

“The fact that we’ve got four in every ten older Australians skipping or delaying their dental care should be a real wake up call to our politicians,” said Sparrow. “These findings back up what we’re hearing directly from older people. It’s not uncommon for us to hear stories of older Australians not getting the urgent dental work they require simply because it’s too expensive.”

Sparrow stressed that financial barriers disproportionately affect those on lower incomes, exacerbating existing health inequalities. She emphasised that implementing a publicly funded SDBS, as recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, is a crucial step towards addressing this issue.

“Having dental bulk billed through Medicare would ensure people can get the care they need, limit the number of people getting ill as a result of not getting the care they need, and will help address our current cost of living crisis,” Sparrow explained. “It’s a common-sense solution to an increasingly alarming problem impacting millions of Australians of every age.”

The research, commissioned by COTA Australia and conducted by Essential Research, revealed several key findings:

  • 37% of Australians aged 55 and over have delayed or avoided dental visits due to cost.
  • Among older Australians on lower incomes, this figure rises to 44%.
  • 73% of all Australians support the introduction of a Seniors Dental Benefits Scheme.
  • Four in five people believe dental care should be covered by Medicare.
  • 89% of Australians in serious financial difficulty believe dental care should be covered by Medicare.

COTA Australia’s advocacy for a Seniors Dental Benefits Scheme has received support from the National Oral Health Alliance and the Australian Dental Association, highlighting the broad consensus on the need for accessible dental care for seniors.

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