Individuals who have difficulty accessing dental care seek relief from pain and infection through other services. The end result of delays in treatment can be admission to hospital to treat serious infections. This puts pressure on the broader health system through dental treatment sought from hospitals (public and private), non–admitted clinics (outpatient treatment) and general practitioners (GPs).
Although complications from dental disease are theoretically preventable by adequate preventive care and treatment, individuals are often hospitalised because of the lack of adequate and timely dental care. In 2009–10, there were 60,251 potentially preventable hospitalisations (PPH) for dental conditions – almost 9 per cent of all PPHs and the fourth most common cause of PPH behind diabetes (24 per cent), dehydration and gastroenteritis (10 per cent) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (9 per cent). Table 1.4 below refers.
Table 1.4: Separations for selected potentially preventable hospitalisations (public and private), by state or territory of usual residence, 2009–10.
Source: AIHW Australian Hospital Statistics 2009–10, Table S7.10.
Of the total number of hospitalisations due to dental disease, the number of admissions to public hospitals has remained fairly stable over the last decade, while the number of admissions to private hospitals has increased over the past three years.
Data from 2009–10 indicate there were 336,770 procedures performed in public and private hospitals for dental services. Of these, more than half were for oral surgery, specifically for surgical removal of teeth. Figure 1.2 below refers.Top of page
Figure 1.2: Percentage of dental procedures performed in hospitals, 2009–10.
Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database (Australian Classification of Health Interventions (ACHI) data).
Those who are not admitted to hospital for dental treatment can be treated in public outpatient clinics instead. The number of occasions of dental service for non–admitted clinics in 2008–09 was 33,672 – more than double the 2006–07 figure of 15,698 (refer to Figure 1.3 below).
Figure 1.3: Number of occasions of dental services for non–admitted (outpatient) clinics.
When individuals cannot access dental care, they may seek medical assistance through a range of services, including general practitioners. Estimates suggest there were approximately over three quarters of a million encounters with general medical practitioners last year for dental problems and complaints.
The main reasons Australians visit GPs for dental problems is to alleviate pain and infection due to: dental or gum abscess; tooth or gum infection; gingivitis; and dental caries and dental impaction. The most common treatments provided by GPs include: prescriptions for pain relief medication and antibiotics; referrals to dentists; and advice on dental hygiene. Patients must also visit GPs if they wish to obtain a chronic disease management plan in order to access the Commonwealth Government’s Medicare Chronic Disease Dental Scheme (CDDS).