Dentistry in Australia

In Australia, permanent residents and citizens have access to a universal health care system called Medicare ( It allows all Medicare card holders to get free treatment at public hospitals and at so called bulk billing medical practices ( Personally, I think it’s a good service and a necessary service. Without it, we would run into the same sort of problems America has faced in recent years.

For example, one study shows that medical bills are the biggest cause of bankruptcy in the United States ( Of course, if any of us, or one of our loved ones required life-saving surgery, we would pay whatever is necessary in order to save them. The TV show, Breaking Bad, famously fictionalised an example of the American health care system. Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher, finds out he has lung cancer and decides the best way to pay for his treatment is by manufacturing and distributing methamphetamine. It’s an extreme example, but not too far from the truth.

Gold-Plated Teeth, Anyone?

Not too long ago, one of my relatives (let’s call her Julie) had a problem with one of her teeth so she went to see our local dentist. He was an elderly man, probably in his 70s and had the mentality that his job was to help people, not to profit from people’s misery. Sadly, he no longer practises dentistry as he recently retired. Anyway, he cleaned a few of Julie’s teeth, as well as placed a special medicated temporary filling in one. This occurred over two visits and cost $100. It was a fair price for a temporary solution.

The dentist’s next recommendation was to do the previously mentioned work plus give a third tooth root canal therapy. This would come to a total of $3304. Finally he offered another option to fill in the gaps with bridges, for a grand total of $5183. Julie’s immediate thought was that this was far too expensive, so to get a second opinion, she went to see another dentist on the other side of town.

Problems with Dentistry in Australia

1. Dentistry in Australia does not seem to be consistent between dentists …

2. Pricing is chaotic. There seems to be no consistency between dentists pricing …

3. Pricing is too high. There seems to be no upper limit on the prices dentists charge …

4. Dentistry is not covered by Medicare. I think this is the major problem with dentistry in Australia. I can’t understand why every other part of the human body is covered by Medicare to some extent, yet the teeth are not. Why is it that Julie can see a doctor about her existing intestinal problem and not be charged a cent (that is, bulk-billed), yet, just to see a dentist costs in excess of $60 (and her health is none the better)? The only thing that these large quotes are doing to people’s health are causing them stress and anxiety.

Possible Solutions

In such an affluent country as Australia, why is that we allow such rampant exploitation of people’s health regarding their teeth? Why is it not possible to implement a Denticare scheme, or similar ( I’m sure the average person would not mind paying a little bit extra if they knew they could get free checkups and discounted procedures. Clearly the industry needs some sort of regulation.

As it stands, it seems dentists set their own prices based on completely arbitrary factors. It would be unfair for a doctor to expect a patient to pay $1700 to fix a broken finger, or giving them the option of having it removed for $200. It’s not like Julie was scrounging off Australian society — she was working 5 days a week and paying her fair share of tax. In my opinion, dentistry in Australia does not benefit the average Australian. I feel that a dentist’s role should not be to make high profits, but to help the community with their oral care. Something is very wrong where care for a single tooth costs in excess of $4000. I’ve seen various segments on news and current affairs programs concerning dentistry, many involving people avoiding the dentist due to the high costs involved. Ultimately, this doesn’t benefit Australia.

Australia spends about $32 billion on national defence (which includes bombing countries in the middle of nowhere who pose no threat to Australia). It’s estimated that a universal Denticare system would cost about $6 billion.

In general, Australia is a great country to live in. Most people are very helpful and fair. However, the dentistry industry is the ugly side. We need a major rethink of how we want to treat our citizens and residents. I don’t want to live in a country that allows people to sacrifice their health simply because the price of treatment is too high.

Originally posted on Daily Rant Australia on February 2, 2016 by Andrew.

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