Dental waiting times blow out in Victoria

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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.” 

In the past 12 months, the number of people on the waiting list ballooned from 135,724 to 154,140 with COVID-19 lockdowns contributing significantly to this. In previous years, nearly 400,000 people were able to access dental care through the public system, but over the past 12 months this dropped to only 284,275 patients who received care. 

A/Prof Hopcraft said that while people wait years for dental care, their existing problems worsen and often lead to the need for emergency treatment. Last year half of all courses of care in the public system were for emergencies rather than routine and preventive treatment. 

“The ADAVB is calling on the State and Federal Governments to prioritise the importance of dental health by boosting funding to tackle waiting lists in the short term and providing a sustainable increase in funding in the long term to double the number of patients receiving care over the next five years,” A/Prof Hopcraft said.

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