Dental Health Week Webinar 7 August 2020

Where to from here? The impact of COVID-19 on oral health in Victoria’ was a webinar hosted by VOHA on 7 Aug 2019.

The Victorian Oral Health Alliance hosted a webinar during Dental Health Week, highlighting some of the key issues COVID-19 has and will have on Victorians oral health. Chaired by Mr Tony McBride, the panel was consisted of:

  1. Dr Dushy Umakhanthan, Senior Dentist from Starhealth
  2. Associate Professor Mathew Hopcraft, CEO of the Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch
  3. Ms Emma King, CEO of the Victorian Council of Social Services
  4. Professor Julie Satur, Head of Oral Health Therapy from the University of Melbourne
  5. Mr Danny Vadasz, CEO of Health Issue Centre

Highlights from the webinar noted the following key issues:

  • Dentistry is seen to be a high-risk for COVID-19 transmission
  • Dental restrictions to dental practice to many only urgent care have meant people are delaying necessary dental care
  • Further delays in dental care will result in increasing long waiting lists in the Victorian public sector before COVID-19
  • For example, Starhealth have seen increased adult general waiting lists by 125% and denture waiting periods by at least 500%
  • Increasing unemployment due to COVID-19 will result in more eligible Victorians being able to access public dental care
  • Many more Victorian cannot afford to seek timely preventive dental care
  • In general, Medicare does not fund oral health
  • Poor oral health are risk factors for poor general health
  • Dental and oral health students can no longer see patients due to dental restrictions
  • Lost opportunities to develop interprofessional practice and experience outreach program to reach vulnerable populations
  • Despite cessation of dental practice by students, their competence would need to be the same for graduation
  • Noted the concerns of a large proportion of COVID-19 transmission is among healthcare workers
  • Lack of consumer engagement and consultation throughout COVID-19 has created missed opportunities for a strong community response to the pandemic

Despite pressures of COVID-19 to provide necessary dental care, there is potential to shift how dental care is provided, including:

Stronger focus on prevention and minimally invasive dentistry

Use of telehealth to offer dental services

  • Strengthen infection control measures beyond COVID-19
  • Trial and receive feedback from consumers regarding different ways to deliver dental care such as remote dental emergency triaging and offering preventive oral health advice
  • Local communities and organisations have responded to meeting the needs of vulnerable communities affected by COVID-19 such as residents living in high-rise housing estates.
  • Stop relying on data to offer practical solutions
  • Leverage consumer voices and generate stories to influence governments and politicians

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