BABY Boomers and older Australians face real challenges with their oral health as a result of lifestyle choices of the past and very limited funding for public health dental services.
The Australian Dental Association is working hard to turn around the later issue by pushing forward to the Federal Government the ADA's Australian Dental Health Plan, but with no further dental services money in the May Budget, it's an uphill battle.
Many of the dental health issues among our older community come from consuming medications which can interfere with dental problems and cause dry mouth, and growing up in non-fluoridated era which has led to loss of tooth structure. "Because of the lack of tooth structure, the risk of things like tooth fractures is increased," ADA president Dr Hugo Sachs said. "When you come to fixing these sorts of problems, you are running into the most expensive end of dentistry."
Aged Pension recipients can seek out free public dental services which are mostly financed by the individual states, but there is a very long waitlist Dr Sachs says of 18 months, two years or even longer. "The per capita spend is pretty pathetic, to say the least," Dr Sachs said.
"There is, at best, about 12 or 13 per cent of registered dentists working in the public sector and about a third of the population eligible to be treated," Dr Sachs said. Those dentists are responsible for treating a whole of community members, from teenagers right through to seniors, all vying for their time.
There is one bit of good news with the Victorian Government announcing in May a $12.1 million 'dental waiting list blitz' to drive down treatment delays ensuring another 18,300 people will be treated by the end of June.
While on the waitlist
There are some things you can do to reduce the incidence of dental problems and the impact of those problems while waiting for treatment.
- Improve your oral hygiene.
- Minimise sugar in your diet.
- Be wary of what you bite on, particularly if your teeth fracture easily.
- Use a fluoridated toothpaste. If you have a high decay rate, then use a high-concentration toothpaste such as NeutraFluor 5000 and chew on sugar-free gum.
Dry mouth problems
- Dry mouth increases the acid concentration which increases the decay rate of your teeth.
- Talk to your GP about the medications that may be causing it.
- There are several conditions that can cause dry mouth, such as Sjögren's syndrome.
- As saliva neutralises the effects of acid in your mouth, when your mouth feels dry you can make an artificial saliva using 500mls of water, a heaped teaspoon of soda bicarbonate and 10mls of glycerine which you can purchase from a chemist, and which you can then swill around your mouth and then spit out.
In an emergency you can go to the outpatients at your local hospital to seek treatment or referral to a dentist that can treat your acute problem, or talk to local private practice dentist.