Aussies chipping away at their super for dental work

The amount of superannuation withdrawn for dental treatments has jumped more than 370 per cent in five years.

The figure has the Dental Board of Australia concerned about growing reports to authorities of practitioners actively encouraging patients to access retirement funds to pay for their care.

The amount of super approved for early release for dental treatment leapt from $66.4 million in 2018/19 to $313.4 million in 2022/23, according to the Australian Taxation Office.

The amount withdrawn in 2022/23 alone rose by a massive 83 per cent.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency said it had received 13 notifications from patients about using their super to cover dental expenses.

Six complaints related to the quality of treatment provided after they dipped into their superannuation to pay for treatment. 

Five related to advertising encouraging patients to access their super to fund treatment and two to a refusal to assist a patient to access super. 

Dental board chair Murray Thomas said while the number of complaints to the practitioner regulation agency might so far be small, there are concerns about the reasons behind the rapid rise in people drawing on their savings for care.

He expects the number of complaints to rise. 

‘The dramatic increase in the number of people getting early access to superannuation has only occurred in the past two years so we are not yet seeing an increase in notifications,’ Dr Thomas said.

Dental patients can apply for early release of superannuation on compassionate grounds if they meet certain eligibility criteria. 

The tax office manages that application process and the rules around the release of superannuation and has done so since July 2018. 

"Accessing super on compassionate grounds is only available in limited circumstances where individuals are unable to pay for eligible expenses using other means," a spokesman said. 

"Accessing superannuation is not ‘free money’, as it will reduce the amount available in retirement. 

"Accordingly, as with any major expense item, it is often useful to get a second opinion or quote."

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