Public dental waiting times
Updated 22 February 2023
Drop in waiting times for public dental care, but concerns remain over long-term access as a result of chronic underfunding.
There are more than 1.5 million adults who are eligible to access public dental care in Victoria, but only 124,000 were able to receive care in the 6 months from June – December 2022. This clearly highlights the problems of an under-resourced public dental system. Waiting times for general dental care have dropped to an average of 16.5 months across Victoria as a result of a one-off injection of funds to focus on delayed care as a result of pandemic restrictions.
Long waiting times for dental care mean existing dental problems worsen, and may lead to the need for emergency care. Around one third of all courses of care are for emergency treatment rather than routine and preventive care.
People with poor oral health may experience pain and embarrassment, have trouble speaking and eating, miss school, have trouble getting a job, and develop other serious health problems. That’s why it’s so important that all Victorians have access to regular dental care.
The past 6 months has seen a further decline in the oral health workforce of 6% (21.6 FTE dental practitioners). This continues a downward trend apparent since 2018 when there were 223.6 FTE dentists employed across the Victorian public sector, compared with only 175.5 FTE dentists in December 2022. This erosion of the workforce, apparent in problems with both recruitment and retention of staff, is placing further pressure on an already overburdened system.
The ADAVB is calling on both the state and federal governments to take urgent action and increase their investment in public dentistry so that vulnerable Victorians are able to smile. This includes:
- Establishing a Senior Dental Benefits Scheme in line with recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Safety and Quality
- Increasing the number of public dental patients treated per year
- Developing a sustainable funding strategy, which recognises the need to invest in shifting the system from a treatment-focussed to a prevention-focussed system
- Introducing new measures to address long waiting times
- Adequately funding and supporting the public dental workforce, so that they are incentivised to stay working in the sector and can continue to deliver the care that Victorians need.
- Implementing a tax on sugar sweetened beverages
- Removing junk food advertising from public spaces including public transport.
The below interactive map shows information on waiting times to access public dental care across Victoria as at December 2022 by Victorian State electorates. The map is colour coded to highlight the average waiting time for general dental care:
This chart shows the waiting time for general dental care for each public dental clinic since 2012/13. The average waiting time for general dental care across Victoria is now 16.5. Select individual clinics from the search box to compare to other clinics or the Victorian state average.
This chart shows the waiting time for general denture care for each public dental clinic since 2012/13. Select individual clinics from the search box to compare to other clinics or the Victorian state average.
This chart shows the number of people waiting for general dental care since 2012/13. There are currently 59,949 people waiting to access basic general dental care. Select individual clinics from the search box to compare to other clinics or the total number for Victoria.
This chart shows the number of people who were treated in the public dental system since 2012/13. Despite population growth and an increase in the number of people eligible for public dental care, there has not been a change in the number of patients who are able to access care each year. Select individual clinics from the search box to compare to other clinics or the total number for Victoria.