About a third of VIctorians are eligible for public dental care, yet only 10 per cent of dentists work in the public sector, says the Australian Dental Association Victorian branch.
People are waiting 17 months on average to see a dentist at a community dental clinic.
But, according to figures released in the Victorian Health Services performance report (September 2011), waiting lists in some parts of Melbourne have blown out to 30 months.
Good oral health is not only important to your appearance and sense of wellbeing, but also to your overall health.
Cavities and gum disease may contribute to many serious conditions, such as diabetes and respiratory diseases.
Studies are also examining whether there is a link between poor oral health and heart disease, women delivering pre-term and birth rates.
With dental health largely excluded from Medicare, struggling families must now book more than two years in advance for dentures or basic procedures such as fillings, cleaning and check-ups.
However, emergency work and children are both seen as priorities.
All children up to 12, health care or pensioner concession cardholders or dependents of concession cardholders are eligible for free pubic care.
The Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch (ADAVB) has asked the State Government to increase funding for public dental services to end the waiting game.
Broadmeadows, Frankston, Hastings and Rosebud have the waiting times of 30 months the quickest place to see a public dentist was Fitzroy at 12 weeks.
Inner-city suburbs generally fared better than outer Melbourne suburbs.
ADAVB president, Associate Professor Matthew Hopcraft, said part of the reason for the variations in waiting times was the number of eligible patients for each location and the number of dentists.
"Longer waiting lists tend to occur in rural areas where there tends to be a shortage of dentist," Associate Prof Hopcraft said.
Spokesman for Health Minister David Davis, Nathan Robinson said the variation in public dental waiting times across Victoria was related to the availability of dentists. He said the State Government recognised this challenge and 2011-12 State Budget committed $3.3 million over four years for dental employment program to attract more clinicans to the pubic sector.
Opposition health spokesman Gavin Jennings called on the State Government to do more. "There needs to be an overall funding increase of at least per cent a year just to meet existing demand, otherwise Victoria will fall even further behind," Mr Jennings said.
Meanwhile, a recent study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reveals more than half of all six-year-olds are affected by baby teeth decay.
But as the AIHW study was based on data mroe than five years old and did not include Victoria and NSW, there are plans for a national child oral health survey this year to discover the ture extent of the problem.
An interim report has recommended that the Gillard Government start developing the first stages of a universal dental scheme this year, estimated to cost as much as $9 billion over four years, giving priority to young people and those on low incomes.