New dental program

A TRIP to the dentist can hurt. For many Manning Valley parents, the experience of taking a child in pain to a dentist is often compounded with a big budgetary blow when paying the account.

This year that will change for many parents with the launch of a new federal government dental program that will provide up to $1000 in benefits for basic dental services over a two-year period. It is called the Child Dental Benefits Schedule and will help parents with children aged between two and 17 finance the cost of dental treatment.

Julie Knaack of Harrington said she had "a pleasant surprise" when she took her daughters, Isabelle and Anneliese to Albert Street Dental Practice in Taree. The annual dental health check-up is part of their family's back-to-school routine.

"I had made the appointments to see Dr Nick at the end of October last year," Julie said. "So it was a pleasant surprise when I learned that I would not have to pay for their check-ups. I thought, 'Ooooo thank you Mr Government!"

The introduction of the Child Dental Benefits Schedule saved Julie around $300. The unexpected government assistance will enable Julie to direct the savings towards the $8500 orthodontic bill pending for Anneliese's teeth.

Julie said she went online to learn more about the schedule following receipt of a letter from the Department of Health.

"It is such a great benefit. Now there is no reason to not take kids to the dentist. Hopefully it will encourage more people to go to the dentist and will result in the prevention of dental problems."

Albert Street Dental Practice dentist, Nick Mills describes the initiative as "good and useful" and says "it will target the people who need it most."

"There are lots of kids in families that have two or three children. If you take them all to the dentist, it could cost around $450 for a check-up and so you can just see families making the choice to spend that money on other things, like food or mortgages," Nick said.

"Prevention is better than cure, and under this scheme I think it will help to reduce the incidence of tooth decay.

"When a new tooth comes through they are susceptible to decay as they haven't been exposed to fluoride or minerals.

"In this area there are a lot of people who live on farms and do not drink the fluoridated water in Taree. The kids haven't been exposed to fluoride and generally they have a higher incidence of decay.

"Under the scheme, I think we will be able to reduce the incidence of decay with the application of fluoride and fissure sealants," he explained.

The Child Dental Benefits Schedule replaces the Medicare Teen Dental Plan and will be administered through the Department of Human Services. Services that receive a benefit under the program include examinations, x-rays, cleaning, fissure sealing, fillings, root canals, extractions and partial dentures. According to the Department of Health, the $1000 covers a two-year period which begins from the calendar year in which the patient first receives an eligible dental service.

For further information go www.humanservices.gov. au/childdental

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