The average waiting time for general dental care in the municipality could further increase if the state government does not offer dentists a salary increase, an expert has warned.
Currently, the average waiting time to receive dental care in Werribee is about 44 months, almost double the the state average of 26 months.
Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch chief executive associate professor Matt Hopcraft said there was a 22 per cent decrease in dentist numbers across the Western Metro Region over the last four years.
“Recruitment and retention are a problem, and that’s definitely linked to pay, that’s one of the things that our members tell us,” he said.
“That’s making it harder for people to access services and contributing to the longer times.”
In May, formal bargaining commenced between the state government and the Professionals Australia union to advocate for adequate pay.
“The Victorian Hospitals Industrial Association and the Australian Dental Association Victoria Branch continue to negotiate in good faith for a new enterprise agreement for public sector and specialist dentists,” a Victorian Government spokesperson said.
Mr Hopcraft said a salary increase would help ensure the sector would be strong and viable, so people could receive necessary care.
“Victorian dentists are paid on average 20-30 per cent less than their colleagues interstate and that’s impacting on recruitment and retention,” he said.
“If the government doesn’t come to the table with a good deal for dentists, we’ll see more people leaving the sector and that can only mean that waiting lists will grow longer.”
Mr Hopcraft said poor oral health can have a “huge impact on people’s overall health and wellbeing”.
“If they’re delayed their tooth decay can get worse, they can have pain, but then that can lead to difficulties eating, difficulties sleeping…there’s links between gum disease and heart disease or diabetes,” he said.
“Waiting for two years or three years for care, means all of those problems get worse and people’s overall health suffers and gets worse.
“We don’t accept it for any other area of health…If you had to wait months or years to see a doctor or to go to the hospital to have an operation, it’s crazy that it’s acceptable for dental health.”