Teen dental plan cops mouthful over 'waste'

LISMORE dentist Dr Brendan White has slammed the Federal Government's Teen Dental Plan as a 'huge waste' of $490 million.

Dr White, who is also president of the North Coast division of the Australian Dental Association NSW, said the $150 vouchers for teenagers would not solve dental health problems.

“It would be better if the money went to treatment for the most needy people,” he said.

“It's such a shame. It's a waste of hundreds of millions of dollars.

“The Government could have refunded the school dental program, boosted the public dental system, or started some preventative education programs.

“I hope the Health Minister realises how bad the Teen Dental Plan is and spends the money on something else.”

But the Government is set to continue with the five-year program, and this week urged parents to get involved.

Richmond MP and Aging Minister Justine Elliot, said the program would help more than a million teenagers.

“With tooth decay ranking as Australia's most prevalent health problem, and gum disease ranking fifth, untreated dental decay is a major problem for our teenagers,” she said.

The problems were worse for local youth. Dr White said we had the worst dental health for 12-year-olds in NSW, and the second worst for five-year-olds.

“The ADA had no input into the Teen Dental Plan,” he said.

“But at least the Government is trying to help those who can't afford any dental care.”

Another Lismore-dental practice manager, who did not want to be named, said the plan frustrated dentists.

“We've had people who have never been to a dentist before,” she said. “When we tell them what needs to be done, parents walk out in tears. They can't afford it.”

She said the practice had about 150 teenagers come in for the free consultation. Only three or four have returned for treatment.

“It's been a waste of money and the Government is just not listening,” she said.

Vouchers for 2009 will be sent to eligible families from mid-January.

“Better to treat the needy”

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