Q&A With Dr Emma
Hi Dr Emma. I'm in my 40's and my teeth are in poor condition, unsightly & painful. Two years ago, a financially well off friend was given a $5,000 grant to have non-urgent work done on her teeth due to being deficient in vitamin D. Although my own tests showed I was 'extremely' vitamin D deficient, I was told I was not eligible by a different doctor. Once this troublesome molar is removed I will only have my front teeth to chew food. I'd like to ask if this program still exists? And keen to know whether or not growing up on generic watery milk powder provided me with enough calcium? (Does it help to mention I have somewhat degenerative osteo arthritis in my bones?) Thanks Dr Emma. Kezz from Mornington Peninsular, VIC.
It sounds like you are talking about the Medicare Chronic Disease Dental Scheme (CDDS). It is still in existence, but not all dentists choose to participate.
The idea behind the scheme is to provide dental care to people who are chronically ill and have complex care needs, where their poor oral health is having an impact on their general health. A good example of this is the link between untreated periodontal (gum) disease and diabetes. It is at the discretion of the patient's medical doctor as to whether or not their general health is being impacted by their oral health.
It is not exactly a grant, but rather up to $4,250 of costs are claimable through Medicare by the patient over 2 consecutive calendar years. A fee schedule has been set out by Medicare, but dentists are not required to limit their fees to follow it. What do I mean by that? Let's say, hypothetically, that a private dentist usually charges $100 for a scale and clean, but the Medicare CDDS rebate is $68.85. The dentist may choose to bulk bill for $68.85, in which case there will be no out of pocket cost to the patient. However, the dentist may charge his/her usual fee, which would leave the patient with a $31.15 "gap" to pay.
The dentist is also allowed to require payment up front from the patient, who then has to claim back their rebate from Medicare. Not all procedures and item codes are covered by the scheme. More complex treatment like dental implants, or cosmetic treatment (like whitening) is not included.
My personal opinion of the scheme is that while well intentioned, it should have been targeted at people who could otherwise not afford dental care. There is no means testing for eligibility, which is why the financial status of your friend didn't matter. As for your own eligibility, it is up to your medical doctor to determine whether or not your dental needs are making your medical condition worse.
As for your concerns about the effect your early diet may have had on your teeth, it's outside the realm of dentistry. The right person to answer your question would be a dietician.