11 September 2020

Victorian dentists call on government to remove restrictions

The ADAVB is calling on the Victorian Government to remove the restrictions to only perform urgent dental treatment in the interests of the health of people in Melbourne.

When Stage 4 restrictions were introduced, one of the requirements was that only urgent dental treatment could be performed. Whilst this was seen as a necessary step to restrict the movement of people at the peak of the pandemic in Victoria, there are significant concerns now that keeping restrictions in place is harming dental health.

According to ADAVB President Dr Angelo Pacella, around one in eight dental practices in Melbourne have closed their doors in recent weeks, and those that are still operating are seeing less than 25 per cent of their normal patient numbers.

“The restrictions only allow urgent cases to be seen, which means that many people are putting off necessary preventive care or delaying treatment that may make their condition worse,” said Dr Pacella.

“However, this ignores the importance of ongoing regular care that many people would normally have to prevent dental problems from getting worse. This is definitely compromising their health and well-being.”

Some of the major areas of concern include:

  • An increase in patients presenting for emergency treatment including broken teeth, swelling and infected wisdom teeth
  • An increased risk of oral infection spreading, which can lead to hospitalisation
  • Restricted access to general anaesthetic services so patients with infected wisdom teeth are having to be treated with antibiotics instead of definitive treatment
  • Increased anxiety level for patients not able to have existing treatments completed and potentially leading to more complex treatments
  • Patients undergoing orthodontic treatment having to delay their regular appointments, potentially compromising their care
  • Lack of routine screening for serious conditions like oral cancer
  • No government funding and limited private health insurance rebates for teledentistry
  • Patients with chronic conditions like periodontal (gum) disease not receiving ongoing maintenance compromising the general health, with poorly managed gum disease associated with other health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

Dental practice remains safe, with no documented cases of transmission of COVID-19 in the dental setting in Australia, and dentists practising with extremely high levels of infection control.

“We want to remind people that it is safe to go to the dentist, and to not put off visiting the dentist if you have a problem,” said Dr Pacella. “But it is important now that the Victorian government recognises that there is no longer a need to restrict dentists to only providing urgent dental treatment, and they should remove these restrictions on 13 September.”

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