03 August 2022

Dental care waiting times surge due to pandemic

COVID-19 pandemic still impacting dental health with worst delays in public dental care seen this decade.

Waiting times for public dental care in Victoria continued to surge over the past 12 months as the impact of the pandemic continues to bite, according to new data released by the Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch (ADAVB) during Dental Health Week.

“There are more than 1.5 million Australian adults who are eligible to access public dental care in Victoria, but only 181,000 received care in the past 12 months – that’s only 12% of those eligible, and well down on the 220,000 that usually receive care each year,” ADAVB CEO A/Prof Matt Hopcraft said.

“Public dental waiting times have now increased on average to 26.7 months across Victoria, an increase of four months since the same time last year and the worst delays in care this decade. This average hides the dire story across the state, with many vulnerable patients forced to wait more than three years.”

The COVID-19 pandemic impact extends beyond the public sector, with all Victorians having had disrupted access to dental care over the past 2½ years.

“Dental practices in Victoria have been prevented from providing routine dental care during 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 Warren Shnider.

“Patients have had to defer routine dental care, regular dental check-ups and preventive treatment, leading to a deterioration in their oral health. Dentists are still seeing many patients with escalated 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.” Dr Shnider said.

More information and detailed data for public dental waiting times is available at: adavb.org/advocacy/campaigns/public-dental-waiting-times

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