Public dental waiting times

Updated 31 January 2022

Waiting times for public dental care in Victoria have ballooned over the past 6 months as the impact of restrictions on access to basic dental care and chronic underfunding continue to bite.

There are more than 1.5 million adults who are eligible to access public dental care in Victoria, but only 100,000 were able to receive care in the six months to December 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate the problems of an under-resourced public dental system. Waiting times for general dental care have now increased on average to 24.8 months across Victoria, the worst delays in care this decade. This average hides the dire story across the state, with 34,000 patients forced to wait more than three years.

Long waiting times for dental care mean existing dental problems worsen. As a result, around half of all courses of care are for emergency treatment rather than routine and preventive care.

People with poor oral health may experience pain and embarrassment, have trouble speaking and eating, miss school, have trouble getting a job, and develop other serious health problems. That’s why it’s so important that all Victorians have access to regular dental care.

The ADAVB is calling on both the state and federal governments to increase their investment in public dentistry so that vulnerable Victorians are able to smile.

A webinar was co-hosted by the Victorian Oral Health Alliance (VOHA) and The University of Melbourne, which explored innovative approaches to tackling public dental waiting lists. View the recording here.

The ADAVB is calling on the State and Federal governments to take urgent action to improve access to public dental care and help to improve oral health. This includes:

  • Establishing a Medicare Seniors Dental Benefits Scheme in line with recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Safety and Quality
  • Increasing the number of public dental patients treated per year to 800,000 within five years
  • Developing a sustainable funding strategy, which recognises the need to invest in shifting the system from a treatment-focussed to a prevention-focussed system
  • Introducing new measures to address long waiting times
  • Adequately funding and supporting the public dental workforce, so that they can continue to deliver the care that Victorians need.
  • Implementing a tax on sugar sweetened beverages
  • Removing junk food advertising from public spaces including public transport

The below interactive map shows information on waiting times to access public dental care across Victoria as at December 2021 by Victorian State electorates. The map is colour coded to highlight the average waiting time for general dental care:

 

The below interactive map shows information on waiting times to access public dental care across Victoria as at December 2021 by Victorian Federal electorates. The map is colour coded to highlight the average waiting time for general dental care:

This chart shows the waiting time for general dental care for each public dental clinic since 2012/13. The average waiting time for general dental care across Victoria is now 24.8 months, the highest that it has been in the past decade, and an increase of 2.1 months since June 2021. Select individual clinics from the search box to compare to other clinics or the Victorian state average.

 

This chart shows the waiting time for general denture care for each public dental clinic since 2012/13. Select individual clinics from the search box to compare to other clinics or the Victorian state average.

 

This chart shows the number of people waiting for general dental care since 2012/13. There are currently 151,500 people waiting to access basic general dental care. Select individual clinics from the search box to compare to other clinics or the total number for Victoria.

 

This chart shows the number of people who were treated in the public dental system since 2012/13. Despite population growth and an increase in the number of people eligible for public dental care, there has not been a change in the number of patients who are able to access care each year. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact, with only 284,275 patients receiving dental care in 2020/21, down from an average of around 400,000. In the six months to December 2021, only 152,344 people were able to receive care, significantly fewer than normal. Select individual clinics from the search box to compare to other clinics or the total number for Victoria.