The Australian Dental Association have advised that waiting times for public dental care is increasing in Victoria, again. The Victorian Government provided additional funds last year to tackle record high waiting lists following the pandemic, however, with funding returning to normal levels, the system is again under pressure, sparking ongoing concerns about a public dental system in crisis and the inability for more than 1.5 million eligible Victorians adults to access necessary dental care.
As a community health provider, increases to wait times have a direct impact on our clients and our community. While people wait for dental care, their existing problems worsen, often leading to the need for emergency treatment. More than one third of all people accessing care in the public system were treated for emergencies rather than routine and preventive treatment.
Oral health is fundamental to overall health, wellbeing and quality of life. A healthy mouth enables people to eat, speak and socialise without pain, discomfort or embarrassment. Dental diseases lead to pain, discomfort and tooth loss, and can lead to difficulties with chewing, swallowing and speech. Poor oral health can cause problems with nutrition and general health, disruptions to sleep and productivity. It can be a barrier to full participation in society including the ability to gain or maintain employment. There are also links between poor oral health and general diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
There is an urgent need for the Victorian government to prioritise dental care for the 1.5 million adult patients eligible for public care.