Public dental service utilisation in South Australia

Background: Dental service utilisation is an important parameter in oral health care planning and provides information on accessibility of dental services. Objectives: To examine longitudinal patterns of dental service use among South Australian public dental patients.

Methods: Public dental patients (n=898) initially receiving an emergency or general course of care at baseline were followed for up to 3 years. Patient clinical records were accessed electronically to obtain information on dental visits and treatment received at those visits. Longitudinal analyses were used to establish a pattern of care seeking among the baseline samples.

Results: Data were extracted for 413 (96.7%) and 431 (91.5%) emergency and general dental care patients at baseline respectively. Some 70.7% and 51.3% of the emergency and general baseline sample respectively returned for treatment post-baseline. Emergency baseline patients returned for dental care within a significantly shorter time period after their baseline care, received significantly more courses of care, particularly emergency courses of care, and were visiting the dentist more frequently than general baseline patients. Of those who returned, 72.6% of the emergency baseline sample returned within the first 12 months compared to 40.3% of the general baseline sample. The majority of the emergency (52.4%) and general (63.8%) baseline sample sought emergency care post-baseline. Overall, emergency baseline patients had a less desirable longitudinal pattern of service use, with a greater proportion of emergency baseline patients receiving oral surgery, restorative, endodontic and prosthodontic services, but fewer receiving periodontic services. In addition, emergency baseline patients received significantly more extractions and less preventive services per follow-up year, on average, than general baseline patients.

Conclusion: Findings provide new information on dental attendance patterns and cycles of courses of care, especially emergency courses of care, among public dental patients and highlight access problems to public dental care. Supported by NHMRC, SADS.

Luzzi L*, Spencer AJ

Presented at the 45th Annual Meeting of the ANZ Division of the IADR, 25-28 September 2005, Queenstown, New Zealand

Note: * indicates presenter

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