The West

Children and the poor are the main beneficiaries of a $4.1 billion, six-year package to boost dental care unveiled by the Federal Government this morning.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said about 3.4 million children would be eligible for subsidised care including check ups, cleaning and fillings at a cost of $2.7 billion.

An extra 1.4 million services will be made available in the State run public dental systems for low income earners including pensioners and concession cardholders, costing $1.3 billion.

The Government will also spend $225 million to boost dental clinics and the workforce in outer suburban, regional, rural and remote areas.

The money is on top of $515 million announced in the May Budget for dental care, which targeted a blitz on cutting public waiting lists.

Ms Plibersek said the Government would find Budget savings to pay for the package, with the Medicare Teen Dental Scheme and the Howard Government era Chronic Disease Dental Scheme already slated to be axed.

The CDDS will be shut within three months to allow patients to complete their treatment.

The Government says the scheme, which gives eligible patients $4250 for major work, has been poorly targeted and rorted by some dentists.

The package announced today was developed as part of the Government's deal with the Greens to stay in power.

Under the plan, children aged between 2 and 17 whose parents receive Family Tax Benefit A will be entitled to $1000 of dental treatment over a two year period.

Ms Plibersek said tooth decay rates in children had been increasing since the 1990s.

She said families would be able to use Medicare to pay for dental care in public and private clinics just as they would when going to see a doctor.

"Investment in our children's teeth is an investment in the future," she said.

"We know that poor childhood oral health leads to poor adult oral health, and has wide-ranging impacts on general health and wellbeing, including strain on our health and hospital system."

Greens health spokesman Richard Di Natale said the package was the stepping stone to including more dental care services under Medicare in the future.

The West Australian

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