Nearly three million pensioners will get $1000 of free dental work every two years under a Labor government.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said the $2.4 billion policy would help improve quality of life, self confidence and basic dignity to those on the aged pension.

“No policy matters more to me than making sure our pensioners can get the dental care they need,” he told a party rally in Melbourne’s east on Sunday.

Half of older Australians have gum disease, he added.

“The experts tell us that this and decay, and missing and broken teeth, carry consequences for your general health too,” he said.

“If you cannot get your teeth fixed you are deprived of simple joys. It stops you from going out for a nice meal, it can make you self conscious even amongst family and close friends.”

Mr Shorten says the coalition has cut $283 million a year from public dental funding, resulting in increased wait times across the country.

The $1000 cap would apply to a range of services such as examinations, x-rays, cleaning, root canals and fillings.

“We’re going to work with dentists to deliver maximum bang for the buck,” Mr Shorten said.