The Lawrence Government is to put the bite back into education with a program to provide free dental care to thousands of upper school students.
Education Minister Kay Hallahan today said the program was a key feature of Labor's education policy to be released today.
Mrs Hallahan said under the program Western Australia's 40,000 Year 11 and 12 school students would have access to free dental care for the first time.
The Minister said the School Dental Service, which now covered all children from pre-school to Year 10, would be extended to Year 11 and 12 students.
"Year 11 students will receive free dental care from next month, while services for Year 12 will be introduced from January 1994," Mrs Hallahan said.
"The service covers children in all parts of the State and about 90 per cent of primary school students currently use it."
Mrs Hallahan said the School Dental Service was first made available to Year 8 high school students in 1987 and since then had been progressively extended to include all Year 10 students.
The Government was spending about $13 million a year to provide the service, which benefited 240,000 WA students.
Mrs Hallahan said extending the service would not require any extra staff and would cost the State Government about $40,000 over the next two years.
"The service already provides dental care for Year 11 and 12 students in remote country areas, but it is important that all students are offered the service," she said.
"Research has shown that if proper dental care is maintained in children, their chances of having healthy teeth and gums for life are greatly improved.
"Today's children have the best dental health of any WA children this century and one of the lowest rates of dental decay in Australia. This is due in no small part to the preventive approach to dental care of our school dental staff."