Australians forced to fly to the dentist
PUBLIC patients are so desperate for affordable dental work they are flying interstate to get it.
Some Australians have reported waiting three years to have wisdom teeth removed that have long been causing them pain, with lengthy delays being faced in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales.
One Victorian woman said she had waited three years for an "emergency appointment" to have her wisdom teeth and the molars next to them removed because they were cracking under pressure.
She now plans to fly to Queensland for treatment.
But in the sunshine state the issue is just as bad, with many people in regional towns struggling to see a free dentist.
Hervey Bay man Marc Facer has made an official complaint to Queensland Health because of his repeated attempts to get emergency care.
"I have been suffering from an extremely loose tooth which rocks sideways - which also has a chronic infection - and then I can't chew as it's higher than the rest of my teeth and I can't eat," his complaint said.
"I do not have many teeth left so it's not really a case of chew on the other side, and I am still waiting for dentures after three years."
Mr Facer said every time he went to the local clinic with an infection he was given antibiotics and told to go home.
He claims he was eventually told that if he wanted treatment he would have to have an inspection and if his mouth was not visibly swollen enough he would be rejected, otherwise he would have to wait six to eight weeks.
Vouchers are usually provided so patients can see a private dentist for free but the patient Mr Facer claims he was told the Hervey Bay clinic had been out of them for six months.
"My tooth is that loose that I think that I could rip it out myself," he said.
"I cannot stay on antibiotics and pain meds for eight weeks."
He said in 10 years he had never had any repairs done, just teeth removed.
A Queensland Health spokeswoman said currently the longest wait at the Hervey Bay Oral Health Centre for a general dental appointment was 2.5 years, while the longest wait for emergency treatment was two months.
With the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service completing 254,706 sets of oral health work in just under a year, they said this was already 44,993 over the number that the service funded.
"Oral health teams across the state work extremely hard to ensure patients receive treatment within the recommended waiting times," the spokeswoman said.
"Although we have seen an increase in the waiting times for public dental care, the majority of patients on the general dental waiting list are being seen within the clinically recommended time frame of two years."
Increased wait times have been due to demand for services, an ageing population and population growth, but Queensland Health said the most significant issue was a reduction in federal funding.
The current National Partnership Agreement on Public Dental Services for Adults represents an $8.7 million reduction, or about 30 per cent in annual funding for Queensland in 2017-18, compared to the 2015-16 financial year.
In New South Wales one mum reported waiting 10 months for her children to be seen.
Another woman said she waiting more than four years for her wisdom teeth impacting a jaw nerve, with a further two years to get it removed.
"As they opened it up it literally shattered in my mouth," she said.
In Victoria the Labor government is also trying to slash dental waiting lists they say have swelled because of federal funding cuts, also about 30 per cent.
Last month the state's Minister for Health Jill Hennessy announced $12.1 million in funding to cut wait times.
They expect more than 18,300 people currently on a waiting list will be treated by the end of June.
Waiting lists have ballooned out to more than 19 months for general care and 17 months for denture care, with patients with urgent needs fast-tracked to the front of the queue, and more than 140,000 people waiting overall.