A team of dentists in northern New South Wales are being forced to deal with a sudden influx of clients that they say is the result of a new, innovative and increasingly common dental service that has sprung up in their area.
The Dental Service Australia website, which is a joint venture between the Royal Free Hospital in Sydney and the Dental Association of Australia, is the main source of referrals for more than 80 per cent of the Australian population.
But with so many dental practitioners already in the community, some dentists are now finding it difficult to keep up with the demand.
Some of the patients are coming in with chronic dental conditions that require treatment.
Some are desperate to see a specialist.
Others are seeking the help of a dentist who can prescribe their preferred alternative to their current treatment.
For some, the pressure to meet demand is overwhelming, leading to some dental students abandoning their studies and choosing to work as part-time workers.
The new dental service has been operating in northern NSW since early February and it is expected to continue operating in other parts of the state.
The first dental patients were seen in early February, when the site opened its doors for patients to apply for an appointment.
At the moment, the DSA is receiving more than 4,000 appointments a week, but it expects the number to rise to between 5,000 and 6,000 a week by the end of next year.
The site has been praised by patients and dentists for the quality of the service.
But it has also been criticised for not offering the most affordable option, and also for the way it is working with people who are not eligible for dental care.
Some patients have complained about the lack of options and have called for an overhaul of the system.
But the Dsa is adamant the new service is the answer to the chronic dental shortage in Australia.
“The DSA has been able to meet the needs of the vast majority of people who have had chronic dental issues,” said chief executive David Lebovits.
“We can offer people the best quality dental care and support and a more affordable option than any other dental service in Australia.”
The Dsa was established in 2014 as a joint-venture between the DFA and the Royal Perth and University Hospital in Perth.
Mr Lebove said the Dsta service was created to offer “dental options that people can trust and to help them avoid the pitfalls of expensive treatment and the long waiting lists”.
“The service provides dental and cosmetic treatments at a fraction of the cost of conventional dentistry,” he said.
“By offering an affordable alternative to traditional dental treatment, we can reduce the cost and increase the quality and safety of dental care in our community.”
Dental services are an increasingly common way of providing treatment for chronic dental problems, particularly for patients with a history of dental pain, but the DSEA is only able to offer services to people aged over 70.
In New South Welsh communities, a high proportion of the population has a pre-existing condition and the majority of dentistry students are in their 30s.
Dr Lebovais said it was common for people to seek treatment with a specialist or for the Dza-Lama to provide a more advanced treatment.
“But the majority are not going to get that treatment,” he told the ABC.
“What we need to do is provide the best care and most appropriate care for the patients, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Mr Leblovits said the new dental services were being rolled out to more than 100 sites in the Northern Territory and Victoria.
“That’s a lot of new services that we’re now doing to the communities that are really not able to get the services that they need,” he explained.
“There’s not much funding in place for dental treatment and most of the people that we see are not able or want to go to dentists.”
Dr Leblovais admitted it was “challenging” to maintain the dental services in the remote communities in the NT and Victoria where the service is available.
But he said the service would continue to offer the highest quality services to the community.
“Dental service can’t be the only thing that we provide for our community,” he added.
Topics:dental-substance-abuse,health,health-policy,dental,health—facilities,healthcare-facilities-and-pharmacy,healthy-care,australiaFirst posted February 14, 2019 05:37:21Contact Sarah LebovskyMore stories from New South