Understanding public dental service utilisation in South Australia

Inequalities in oral health and access to dental services are major issues in public health in Australia. Adults eligible for publicly funded dental care are either presenting for emergency dental care (EDC) or are spending longer on waiting lists for general dental care (GDC). Objectives: The purpose of this study was to develop an understanding of public sector dental service utilisation in South Australia, in particular among people attending dental services for emergency dental care. Methods: This study was done as an adjunct to an existing data collection for a project entitled ‘Relative Needs Index’ (RNI) conducted in 1999 (PIs: Spencer AJ, Roberts-Thomson KF). RNI data were used to describe baseline socio-demographic characteristics, oral health status and service characteristics of patients receiving publicly funded EDC (n=427) and GDC (n=471). Longitudinal patterns of dental service use and service provision were also examined amongst the RNI sample. These data were extracted from the EXACT management information system in the South Australian Dental Service and covered a period of 3 years after recruitment to RNI. Results: At baseline, EDC and GDC samples were reasonably homogenous with respect to socio-demographic characteristics with only educational attainment varying significantly between samples. Self-reported dental visiting behaviours (i.e., usual reason for visiting the dentist, time since last dental visit, place of last dental visit and frequency of dental visits) varied significantly between EDC and GDC patients. Types of services received also varied amongst EDC and GDC samples with emergency patients receiving significantly more oral surgery services per COC, but significantly less diagnostic, endodontic, restorative and general services per COC. Conclusion: Dental visiting patterns and service provision patterns vary according to the nature of a dental visit.

L Luzzi*, AJ Spencer

Presented at the Colgate Australian Clinical Dental Research Centre Research Day, 22 August 2003, Adelaide, Australia

Note: * indicates presenter

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