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In response to a report that nearly half a million Australians are in urgent need of dental care, NSW Premier Kristina Keneally is being urged to lobby the federal government for a national dental health service.

It was reported that the nearly half a million Australians are on waiting lists longer than two years for dental care.

According to an investigation by Fairfax's The Sun-Herald, almost half the population said that they cannot afford the high cost of private dental treatment. To some extreme, people suffering pain from rotting teeth reduce to perform surgery on themselves.

The newspaper reports that the oral health status of Australia's adults ranks second-worst in the OECD group of wealthy nations.

Greens' MP Lee Rhiannon said the Premier must respond to the crisis to ensure it does not get worse.

Dental health is essential to good physical health and emotional well-being, but there are more than 500,000 people on dental waiting lists in Australia, Ms Rhiannon said in a statement on Sunday.

Dental healthcare is long overdue for an overhaul, as the current system fails many Australians, particularly those who are already disadvantaged.

A report titled Australia's National Oral Health Plan 2004-2013 found that people on lower incomes are worst affected, but even middle-income families are finding it hard to afford treatment, with many taking out loans or travelling overseas where it is almost two-thirds cheaper.

Wealthy people, however, are driving demand for aesthetic work with cosmetic procedures steadily rising for the past decade, according to the report.

Health and welfare groups say the situation is likely to worsen unless the federal government addresses dental care under its health reforms.

jm