As our population ages, it is vital that we ensure older Australians can maintain a good standard of oral health. Some older Australians have a legacy of dental disease and repair which necessitates continuing dental care. Many lived as children without fluoridation or high quality preventive care.
As there is a trend towards increased retention of teeth by older people, this means there will be an increased need for dental care for this age group.
Many older Australians are on low incomes and struggle to afford dental care. Older Australians may also face other barriers to accessing dental care, for instance illness or restricted mobility.
Private dental care has become less affordable and public dental services are under-funded and unable to meet the demand for care. Older people are also facing increased costs due to the introduction of user contributions towards the cost of aged care services and the higher contribution for medications which can impact on their ability to pay for dental services.
Being unable to afford dental care causes major distress to elderly Australians and greatly impacts on their quality of life.
Poorly maintained teeth or badly functioning dentures restrict diet and poor diet is linked to conditions in older people such as cardio-vascular disease and bone thinning as well as contributing to memory loss and poor cognitive functioning. Pain and suffering from untreated dental problems can contribute to depression and other mental health problems and the long term use of pain killers and antidepressants. Untreated dental problems can also restrict participation in community and family activities.
AHCRA supports increased funding for public dental services and programs which directly target older Australians and those at risk of dental problems, including people in aged care facilities and those with dementia.