15 August 2021
Dental waiting times blow out
Waiting times for public dental care in Victoria have ballooned over the past 12 months as the impact of restrictions on access to basic dental care begins to bite, according to new data released by the Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch (ADAVB).
“There are more than 1.5 million Australian adults who are eligible to access public dental care in Victoria, but only 175,000 were able to receive care in the past 12 months, a decrease of over 70,000 patients from the previous year,” ADAVB CEO A/Prof Matt Hopcraft said. “Public dental waiting times have now increased on average to 22.7 months across Victoria, the worst delays in care this decade. This average hides the dire story across the state, with many patients forced to wait more than three years.”
Average wait times at selected clinics:
- Maryborough District Health Service – 48.7 months
- DPV Health – 38.5 months
- Merri Health – 36.4 months
- Nillumbik Community Health Service – 36.3 months
- Monash Health – 32.1 months
- Albury Wodonga Health – 31.9 months
- Bellarine Community Health 30.6 months.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic extends beyond the public sector, with lockdowns impacting on the ability for all Victorians to access dental care.
“Dental practices in Victoria have been prevented from providing routine dental care through each of the lockdown periods since the pandemic began. In almost six of the last 18 months dental practices have been restricted to only providing urgent or emergency dental care,” said ADAVB President Dr Jeremy Sternson.
“Patients have had to defer routine dental care, regular dental check-ups and preventive treatment, leading to a deterioration in their oral health. After each period of lockdown ends, dentists see many patients with problems, that could have been managed in a conservative manner, progressing to more serious disease – for example tooth decay that could have been treated with a simple filling now needing root canal treatment or even extraction because their care has been delayed. As COVID-19 continues to cause lockdowns around the country, patients are being denied the ability to access necessary health care,” Dr Sternson said.