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A top dentist has recalled the traumatic time he removed the teeth of a two-year-old patient who was bottle-fed Coca-Cola since birth, leading calls to overhaul Australia’s “failing” dental system.

Australian Dental Association (ADA) president Stephen Liew said he was left deeply distressed when he had to remove 20 teeth from a girl called Mary who suffered from “pus-filled abscesses” all over her mouth.

“She woke up screaming with a mouth full of blood and her mother shouted at me ‘what have you done to my daughter’?” Dr Liew said.

“It’s still the most traumatic procedure I’ve ever performed.”

Dr Liew said if the young child had been identified as priority population and given preventive oral measures she wouldn’t have fallen victim to the “systemic failures” in Australia’s dental health system.

“It’s deeply disturbing that patients like Mary exist at all,” he said.

A senate inquiry into dental services was told millions of people in Australia were suffering from untreated tooth decay and teeth loss, with many waiting years on waiting lists for public dental care.

About one in three adults has untreated tooth decay in Australia, according to the ADA, with 10 kids in every 1000 hospitalised annually for avoidable dental conditions.

Underfunding towards public oral health services has led to many “languishing” without care, leading major peak dental organisations to call for the government to establish a chief dental health minister and a universal dental access scheme.

Dr Liew said nationally consistent data was a crucial first step to plead a case for more affordable dental care and called on the government to act on its election pledge to enable cheaper access.

“The Albanese government came to power on promises of fixing access to dentistry so more people had access to more services,” he said.

“Before they were elected, Labor said that their goal was to provide universal access to affordable dental services for all Australians. Yet 17 months later, absolutely nothing has happened.”

Health Minister Mark Butler’s office has been contacted for comment.

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By Rahul

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