BACKGROUND: The Chronic Dental Disease Scheme (CDSS) is the first public dental policy in Australia to attract Medicare benefits for dental services.
AIMS: This study examines the utilisation of a new federal method of funding dental care in Australia and provides an insight into the implications of government dental programs. The program titled; Chronic Dental Disease Scheme, provided government-subsidised dental care for people suffering from a chronic medical condition.
METHOD: A retrospective analysis of activity data using the relevant item numbers were extracted from the open source Medicare Benefits Schedule database (MBS) for years 2007-2009.
RESULTS: During the study period, a total of approximately five million dental services were provided. There was a disproportionate use of services between jurisdictions. The highest proportion (66%) of services was provided in the state of New South Wales (NSW) with Victoria second (22%). The adjusted value of care provided as a proportion of comprehensive examinations ranged from $1937 in the northern territory (NT) to $2900 in NSW. The value of care per dentist ranged from nearly $80 000 down to less than $1000 and the value of care per adult of the population ranged between $53 and $1 across Australia. The highest was always in NSW and the lowest always being the NT. Fixed prosthodontics (reconstruction) accounted for the significant costs associated with the program.
CONCLUSION: The scheme has been utilised above its budget estimate with prosthodontics accounting for the majority of expenses. Treatment plans differed between jurisdictions. The increase in utilisation of the scheme was coincident with periods of increased in subsidy and remuneration and has been postulated to be a main driver for its utilisation rather than the improvement in chronic health.