Dental industry: Cash reaches insurers more than dentists

THE dental industry has claimed the out-of-pocket expense of oral health care is going to private health insurers, rather than dentists.

The Australian Dental Association gave evidence to a Senate inquiry examining health care costs of Australia's hip pockets this week.

It showed Australians were contributing $7.4 billion towards their own dental care, and most were able to access care, ADA president Dr Karin Alexander said.

But despite that spending, it was not necessarily reaching dentists, instead going to rises in insurance premiums and gaps between dentists' fees and rebates.

"Many blame the dentist but the ADA's annual fee surveys show that average dentists' fees for the last five years are below health inflation and average private health insurance premium increases," she said.

Dr Alexander said government schemes and insurance rebates were "inadequately short" compared to the cost of providing dental care.

The Senate inquiry is due to report back to parliament in early August.