ORAL health care is expected to decline in regional and rural areas with dentists frustrated the bush is being left behind.
Australia Dental Association (ADA) NSW president Dr Michael Jonas said he was disappointed to see the 2022-23 state budget overlook a commitment to oral health care funding.
"It was just like 'here we go again with being forgotten'," Dr Jonas said.
"Not a single dollar of the almost $900 million of the NSW Government's regional health care boost is going to improving the access to public oral health care services," he said.
"It's a matter of priority, at the moment you're either going to have maternal services or a dentist.
"The government has got to find this balance."
With around 21,000 people across the Hunter New England health district currently on the public health dental waitlist, Dr Jonas said there was capacity for the private sector to help relieve the burden, provided there was appropriate funding.
"At the moment the majority of the services are provided to public health patients in hospital clinics which has some inherent issues with staffing and capacity," he said.
"We're having conversations about how that can be improved so people will have access to the dentist down the street instead of having to queue up at the hospital."
ADA NSW has estimated that an additional $5 million per year towards oral health would increase access to tele-dentistry services, improve incentives to encourage dental practitioners to work in rural locations and support a placement program to grow the Indigenous oral health workforce and the delivery of culturally appropriate care.
Dr Jonas said once dentists graduate and receive their registration the industry could look to introduce a residency system to place new graduates in regional areas - a system that exists for doctors but not in dentistry.
"I couldn't think of anything better than living in the regions, but if I had this conversation with my colleagues in the city they would look at me with surprise that you can have a life outside metro areas," he said.
"We've got to get over that barrier."
Marius Street Family Dental dentist Dr Min Stephenson, who swapped city life for the country 22 years ago, said providing training and mentoring for new graduates was the key to getting them to stick around.
"Everything you learn in university you need to put into practice. Some dentists focus on income, but the important thing is they have good support," she said.
"Most of my dentists have been here for four or five years, and the more they live in the country the more they like the country."
Without additional funding to dentistry, Dr Jonas said waitlists would get longer and the health of the community would decline.
"More people will start having aches and pains and losing teeth, then their diet starts to drop off and their overall health," he said.
"When you have a population who has good oral health you have decreased sick days, you have increased productivity, so we actually make money. The GDP improves because people are actually well."
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