Public Oral Health Waiting Times and Workforce Capacity
Navigating Public Dental Services in Victoria
Despite oral healthcare being an essential component of overall health, affordable services are becoming increasingly inaccessible, with marginalised communities being the most significantly impacted. The ADAVB is committed to supporting initiatives that aim to create a more equitable and efficient Victorian public dental system.
The information presented below highlights the urgent need for increased investment in the Victorian public dental sector.
Statewide, the average waiting time for community dental services stands at 16.7 months, with approximately 50% of those individuals experiencing even longer waits. Additionally, individuals must wait another 12 months before they can rejoin the waiting list for future care or be placed on a new waiting list to receive essential specialist treatment, a detail not reflected in these statistics. This challenge is further exacerbated in rural and regional areas, where critical staffing shortages have significantly hindered access to care. These inexcusably long wait times not only exacerbate existing dental issues but also increase the likelihood of individuals requiring emergency care, with around 30% of all public dental services being emergency treatments instead of routine maintenance or preventative care.
The primary cause of the limited availability of appointments and extended waiting lists across the state is the scarcity of public dental staff, with only 181.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) employed dentists compared to 223.6 FTE in 2018. This decline in the workforce, due to challenges in both recruitment and retention, is exacerbating the strain on an already overburdened system. There is also an immense discrepancy between the number of available dental chairs and the limited capacity dentists able to fulfil the demand for services. As per Question on Notice No. 460 issued to the Victorian Parliament on the 17th of May 2023, the government has confirmed that the entire Victorian public dental service is operating at an estimated 52.5% capacity.
Victorian Public Dental Data - Graphs and Visualisations
This interactive map displays data on waiting times for accessing public dental care across Victoria as of December 2023, segmented by Victorian State electorates. It uses colour coding to illustrate the average waiting time for general dental care. The map also provides detailed information for each community health centre, including the full-time equivalent (FTE) of their clinical dental workforce, the number of individuals waiting for treatment, the ratio of emergency to general treatment, average wait times for general and denture care, and the total number of patients treated.
This line chart presents the average waiting time for general dental care for each Victorian region from 2012 to 2023, stratified by rural or regional areas and metropolitan Melbourne. The average waiting time for general dental care across Victoria is 16.7.
This line chart presents the average waiting time for denture services for each Victorian region from 2012 to 2023, stratified by rural or regional areas and metropolitan Melbourne. The average waiting time for denture services care across Victoria is 12.7.
This line plot illustrates the changes in workforce capacity of public dental practitioners, for each Victorian region from December 2021 to December 2023, stratified by rural or regional areas and metropolitan Melbourne. As of December 2023, the total public state clinical dental workforce capacity is 181.5 FTE.
This column plot showcases the proportion of dental chair utilisation through the relationship between dental practitioner FTE hours and available dental chairs at seventeen Victorian community health centres. These services have been stratified by rural or regional areas and metropolitan Melbourne.
This fact sheet uses the latest statistical update on Victoria's public dental system, which was released in December 2023 and was obtained under Freedom of Information from Dental Health Services Victoria. Produced biannually, this dataset is instrumental in informing ADAVB's advocacy and research projects.