Australian gov't ponies up for oral health improvement

The Australian government will spend $515.3 million in 2012-2013 to address the country's oral health crisis.

According to the Department of Health and Aging, $345.9 million will be directed to treating patients on waiting lists over the next three years who are in need of emergency treatment and preventive care.

The government will also direct health dollars to additional training to help boost the public dental service workforce and improve dental infrastructure in regional, rural, and remote areas. The Voluntary Dental Graduate Year Program will be increased from 50 to 100 placements per year by 2016 at a cost of $35.7 million over three years.

The government will also direct $45.2 million over four years to introduce an Oral Health Therapist graduate year program that will give placement opportunities, with a focus on public dental services, to 50 new graduates each year beginning in 2014.

Services in remote areas of Australia will be strengthened by a new grants program to encourage and help dentists relocate to regional, rural, and remote areas, at a cost of $77.7 million over four years. Relocation grants of between $15,000 and $120,000, depending on the area to which a dentist moves, and grants of $250,000 to help with the purchase and fit-out of dental facilities, will be provided.

The government will also invest $8.2 million in projects to improve facilities and buildings that will boost dental services in regional Australia.

The budget will include $10.5 million in funding for national oral health promotion activities and $450,000 over three years to nongovernment organizations to coordinate the provision of pro bono dental health services for those in greatest need.

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