MORE than 5000 people are waiting to see a public dentist in the Hunter but the region’s health service said waiting lists had dropped by one-third since 2008.
Figures obtained by the Newcastle Herald show at the end of September about 5200 people were waiting for assessment and treatment at Hunter New England’s Oral Health Service.
It comes after the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Report yesterday released two reports that found a correlation between the dental health of parents and their children and a link between those with chronic health conditions and poor dental health.
The report, based on 2010 National Dental Telephone Interview Survey, found almost one in five Australian children experienced a dental issue inside 12 months, either a toothache or avoiding foods because of oral problems.
Institute spokeswoman Professor Kaye Roberts-Thomson said affected children were more likely to be from families whose parents avoided or delayed their own dental visits because of cost.
In the Hunter dental treatment waiting lists have dropped from 8477 to 5200 between 2008 and 2012.
However, the service continues to get 4500 calls a month requesting treatment, with 30per cent considered urgent and treated within 24 hours.
Service general manager Leanne Martin said they aimed to treat all patients within clinically appropriate timeframes.
They had made significant strides in reducing waiting lists by increasing staffing and engaging private sector dentists.
‘‘Emergency or trauma assistance are treated as a priority,’’ she said.
Australian Dental Association NSW president Dr Mark Sinclair said the only reason waiting lists had come down was because of the federal government’s Chronic Disease Dental Scheme, which was to end next month and they would spike after it folded.
“New funding for public dental services ... will not be sufficient,” he said.
Samaritans Cessnock centre manager Lesley Radnidge said they had previously referred clients that needed dental help to the soon-to-be defunct scheme.
‘‘Ending the scheme will create a huge hole in the system,’’ she said
HUNTER residents could get a call from their local general practitioner group in the coming weeks.
Hunter Medicare Local, which represents GPs in the region, will conduct a telephone survey to help plan Hunter health services.
The five-week survey is a partnership with the Hunter Valley Research Foundation and will focus on health care that happens outside of hospital.
It is hoped the data will enable planners to shift the burden of chronic diseases away from hospitals and reduce avoidable admissions. The University of Newcastle has also added questions about adverse reactions to medicines in the community and reporting practices.
Participation in the survey is voluntary and completely private.
Interviewers will call between 2pm and 8pm for the 15-minute questionnaire.