Kate Hamley from Sunbury expects to wait three years on the public dental care waitlist before she can have another check up.
She’s representative of Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch (ADAVB) data which shows people in the Sunbury electorate wait about 25 months for public dental care.
“When I finished my treatment, I had to wait an additional year before they would even put me on the waiting list again,” she said.
“It’s very stressful. I’m very worried that if I have a problem with my teeth, I’m just going to have to deal with it.”
ADAVB chief executive associate professor Matt Hopcraft said wait times would continue to bite unless the state government offered dentists a salary increase.
He said there had been a 35 per cent decrease in dentist numbers over the past four years in the Hume region, and a 22 per cent decline in the broader Western Metro region.
“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 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.”