Healthy teeth are crucial for a person’s overall health and wellbeing. Good oral health allows a person to talk, eat, and drink without experiencing pain, discomfort, or embarrassment. The Council of Australian Governments defines oral health as ‘more than simply the absence of disease in the oral cavity; it is a standard of oral functioning that enables comfortable participation in everyday activities’.
As such, problems with oral health extend far beyond the teeth and mouth. Oral health is intrinsically linked to various other health issues, including diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease, and pregnancy related complications.
In Western Australia, people who meet set eligibility criteria can access publicly funded dental care through the Department of Health’s Dental Health Services (DHS) branch. For prisoners in Western Australia, the Department of Justice has established a Memorandum of Understanding with DHS to provide dental services. In addition to this, a very small number of prisoners also pay for their own private dental appointments. And for those prisoners placed at Acacia Prison, the state’s only privately-operated custodial facility, dental services are provided through a private contract arrangement.