Dental care waiting times drop but are still too high
The time Victorians wait for public dental treatment has dropped to just over 16 months on average, which is still too high.
While it's the lowest overall wait time since 2016-17 it should be less than a year, according to Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch President Associate Professor Warren Shnider.
"Waiting more than 12 months is still unacceptable for patients with significant treatment needs," he said on Thursday.
The average wait time blew out to almost 27 months in June 2022 due to the impact of pandemic restrictions, prompting the Victorian government to inject $27 million into the system.
The dental association said about one third of treatments in the past six months were for emergencies, rather than preventative care.
It also noted the dental workforce had shrunk by about six per cent during that period.
Average wait times vary but decreased to about 40 months at the North Richmond Community Health clinic, 29 months at Banyule Community Health and 16 months at Meri Health.
South West Health clinic wait times increased to just over 33 months but dropped to about 30 months at Latrobe Community Health Service and 27 months at Sunraysia Community Health.
While Victorian dentists were able to see more than 205,000 patients in the second half of last year, the association fears the shorter waiting times could be temporary.
"History tells us that these one-off injections of cash only offer short term relief, and without a more sustainable approach, we know that waiting times will rapidly increase," Prof Schneider added.
Prof Schneider said dentists had raised concerns about retention and recruitment during stalled enterprise bargaining negotiations and it was vital the Victorian government addressed those issues.
Premier Daniel Andrews said he wouldn't pre-empt the state budget in May but it was safe to assume the government would continue to back health, including expanding dental services.
"We've got to keep boosting up both in terms of training the workforce we need for the future, building the clinics ... and also expanding that service," he told reporters at parliament on Thursday.