Saturday, February 21, 2009


Toothache in wrong postcode costs double

Josephine Tovey and Erin Somerville, smh

February 21, 2009

PATIENTS in Double Bay are paying up to twice as much for simple dental procedures as people in Bankstown, while the rate of complete tooth loss is almost twice as high among country people as it is among their capital-city dwelling counterparts, figures show.

These figures, released in the same week the Government pushed for a universal health care system, reveal dental care is characterised by inconsistencies and inequality.

Prices gathered by the Herald show vast differences in rates charged for the same procedure at different dental surgeries.

The Australian Dental Association, which criticised the Government's proposed Denticare scheme this week, said the disparity could be explained by different incurred costs.

"It all depends on how large the practice is, how many rooms, how many assistants … their rent might be more expensive in the more affluent areas and those costs have to be passed on," a spokeswoman for the association said.

But the Australian Consumers Association said yesterday this was only part of the explanation.

"Another part of it is what the market will bear; that's how markets work when they're not regulated," a consumers association spokesman said.

Meanwhile, a report released earlier in the week by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed a gap between the dental health of Australians from urban and regional areas.

The report, Geographic Variation In Oral Health And Use Of Dental Services In The Australian Population 2004-06, showed people who live outside capital cities had almost double the prevalence of complete tooth loss compared to capital-city dwellers.

Among rural people, 9 per cent had lost all their teeth, while in capital cities it was only 5 per cent. People in rural areas were also less likely to have regular dental check-ups: only 48 per cent of residents outside capital cities compared with 61 per cent in capital cities.