Thousands of Australian families could be missing out on free dental work they're entitled to these holidays.
While uptake of the Child Dental Benefits Schedule has gradually increased since it was introduced in 2013 with almost 38% of eligible children using it, a 2018 poll found that one in four eligible families is not yet aware of the scheme.
"Qualifying families – those with children aged two to 18 who are receiving Family Tax Benefit Part A or a relevant Australian government payment – are entitled to $1013 dental work in every two year period under the Schedule," the Australian Dental Association's (ADA) Deputy CEO Eithne Irving explained.
"The government needs to do a lot more to publicise this Schedule so eligible families can get the treatment they may have thought they could not afford," she said.
"The long stretch of school holidays is the perfect time to book your dental appointments and get your kids along to the dentist to get their teeth checked and treated where necessary. If you're eligible, the cost of the work may be covered by the Schedule.
"The dentist will spot any issues that might be brewing, explain the best way to brush and floss, and what food and drink kids – and indeed the whole family – should keep to the bare minimum over the holidays and beyond."
Families can check their child's eligibility and CDBS balance through their Medicare online account at MyGov or by calling 132 011.
Christmas and the school holidays are often a time when health matters take a back seat and sugar consumption skyrockets. But Ms Irving reminds people that "tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in both adults and children.
"Statistics show that 42% of Australian children aged 5-10 years had experienced tooth decay in their primary teeth- that's two in every five children! It's disappointing that children so young have so much tooth decay," she said.
Other alarming statistics show that 24% of children aged six to 14 have experienced tooth decay in their adult teeth, and 27% of five-to 10-year-olds have untreated dental decay.
For older kids, figures show one in six teenagers consumes over 5kg of sugar a year from sugary drinks alone, amounting to about the same weight as the standard family cat.
"Keep your consumption of Christmas Day choccies and treats to mostly all on the one day and not spread out across the whole holidays, and your teeth will thank you for it."
The ADA also wants to remind people that dental practices are still using covid-safe measures - including triaging patients about recent movements, temperature checks, hand sanitizer, mouth washes, full practice room cleans after every patient and staff wearing the full range of PPE.
"Those families who've been putting off visiting the dentist due to covid fears should rest assured that with dental practices' covid measures and the reassurance that you can get help with free treatment, there should be no reason to delay your family's dental checkups," Ms Irving added.
Another hot oral issue for families this summer is the extra rough and tumble kids get up to in the backyard and the risk of injury to the mouth from a fall or knock.
So in the event of a dental emergency and the usual family dentist is closed, ADA branches throughout Australia have a list of the nearest available dentists in each state.
• NSW & ACT:
• Queensland: https://www.ada.org.au/Find-a-Dentist
• South Australia: https://www.adasa.asn.au/find-a-dentist
• Tasmania: https://www.ada.org.au/ADATAS/Home/Contact
• Western Australia: http://www.adawa.com.au/findadentist
• Northern Territory: https://www.ada.org.au/Find-a-Dentist