A thousand reasons for children to smile

CHILDREN across the region will be among more than three million who will be eligible for taxpayer-subsidised dental care after the Senate passed a new government scheme.

The six-year package includes $2.7 billion for about 3.4 million children aged two to 17 years, $1.3 billion for adults on low incomes and $225 million to expand services in outer metropolitan, regional and remote areas.

Access to the scheme will start on January 1, 2014 and will cover children in families receiving Family Tax Benefit Part A or a range of other benefits.

It will provide a capped benefit of $1000 over two years for basic dental services.

One million low-income adults with concession cards, including pensioners, will also have improved access to public dental care.

Families will be able to continue using their private dentist, provided the dentist participates in the scheme.

Government frontbencher Jan McLucas said the investment would help reverse the decline in the dental health of the nation’s children since the 1990s.

“Unless we reverse this trend, a generation of children with poor teeth will grow as a generation of adults with poor teeth,” 

Senator McLucas told the chamber on yesterday.

“Poor oral health will place even more pressure on the wider health system.”

Senator McLucas said the bill would establish a framework to allow children in “poor and less well-off families” to access affordable preventative care and basic dental  services.

The new scheme replaces the Howard government’s Chronic Disease Dental Scheme.

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