Some 85,000 NSW adults are currently on the public dental waiting list in NSW and it could be two or three years before they see a dentist.
Of those, about 30,000 are in rural, remote or regional areas.
A parliamentary inquiry investigating health outcomes and access in rural and regional NSW heard on Friday there is a shortage of dentists outside the cities.
In Gunnedah, with its population of about 10,000 people, a dentist is only available one day a week.
One eight- or nine-year-old child in Wagga Wagga recently had to have eight teeth removed, Dr Jonas said.
“Every Australian deserves the ability to smile, speak and eat without pain,” Australian Dental Association President Michael Jonas told the committee.
The risk factors for dental conditions – including a lack of fluoride in water – are higher outside the cities too.
“I can tell you pretty much to the minute when the patient sat down in my chair, whether they had been exposed and had been drinking fluoridated tap water as distinct from tank water,” said Dr Jonas.
“(The difference) is almost day or night.”
In Molong, the addition of fluoride to the water system has been officially approved but the process of implementing that will take ten years, ADA NSW’s Sarah Raphael said.
“The stumbling block in many of these smaller areas is they can’t get qualified people to do the monitoring and the dosing.”
Medicare does not cover dental work. The NSW government is responsible for public dental services.
In some areas, it can be just as hard to find a private dentist, Dr Jonas said.
The inquiry also heard that suicides have increased in regional and remote NSW in 2021 compared to the previous year.
Those living regionally have faced compounding traumas of bushfires, drought, floods, the mice plague and now COVID-19, said the state’s Mental Health Commissioner Catherine Lourey.
However, access to psychiatrists outside Sydney is difficult, she said.
Earlier on Friday, the committee was told Aboriginal people in Moree were treated with “contempt” after a COVID-19 outbreak last month was blamed on a funeral.
More than 50 people caught the virus in Moree last month, most of whom were Aboriginal.
“Some people in town were making discriminatory assumptions (that) anyone who was Aboriginal was at the funeral and they were banned from entering shops,” Just Reinvest manager Jenny Lovric told the inquiry.
The spread of the virus was blamed on a large public funeral that moved through Moree’s main street.
But Ms Lovric said traces of the virus had already been identified in Moree’s sewage system.
Racism and discrimination contribute to poor health outcomes at other times as well, Ms Lovric told the committee.
Aboriginal people have reported feeling uncomfortable, judged and discriminated against by local health services, with a perception that their medical problems are self-inflicted because of addiction or similar issues.
Ms Lovric said staff at Moree’s hospital can be dismissive, sending people home instead of treating them.
“There are too many stories of people being sent home with very serious conditions … Some people in fact have died and nothing seemed to have been done about this,” she said.
There is no detox service available in Moree, and mental health issues are not addressed in a substantive way, she said.
The inquiry has heard complaints of understaffing and a lack of vital health services throughout the state.
More than 700 people have made submissions to the inquiry.
It will continue its hearings in February.
Australian Associated Press
*Original article online at https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7536184/85000-adults-waiting-for-dentists-in-nsw/