A new paradigm of emergency dental care at the community dental clinic: no appointment necessary!

A/Prof Michael Smith1, Ms Sharon  Lewis1, Mrs Lindy Carroll1, A/Prof Margaret Rogers1

1Oral Health Services Barwon Health, Newcomb, Australia



Patients presenting for emergency dental care (EDC) are required to be seen within specific time frames dependent on triage. EDC requires fitting patients into an appointment schedule that is booked for general courses of care months ahead.  EDC may require the next available appointment and in some instances general appointments need to be cancelled, resulting in stress for patients and staff. The aim was to improve the experience of EDC at the community dental clinic.


Dentists, oral health therapists, prosthetists, dental assistants and receptionists from the clinics attended a briefing session where triage compliance, patient numbers and treatment were presented.  It was decided to trial the new “open emergency sessions”.  Patients who contacted the clinics are triaged and advised to take a seat or attend the clinic the following morning. General patients are seen in the afternoon.


The average number of patients seen each morning for emergency care was 15 (IQR 11-17) at Belmont, 17 (IQR 15-20) at Corio and 12 (IQR 11-15) at Newcomb.  For the first nine months, 7226 patients were seen by 12.30pm. The number of patients that failed to arrive was 3 (IQR 2-4) at Corio and 2 (IQR 1-3) at Belmont and Newcomb.

Significance of the findings to allied health:

Patients were extremely satisfied with the care given and comments included “Wonderful treatment making me feel at ease”, “Huge thank you for outstanding service”, “Excellent service”.  Sick leave for staff reduced from 8.3% in 2017 to 4.6% in 2018.


A/Prof Michael Smith graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1975 (BDSc. LDS.) and has practised as a dentist in the Private and Public Sectors.  A/Prof Smith has held an honorary appointment at the University of Melbourne, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences as a Fellow  since 2010.  Michael is the Head of Oral Health Services for Barwon Health and Colac Area Health and has published papers in reputed journals, please see attachment below. He has represented the Community Health Sector on many Committees including the Australian Population Health Improvement Research Strategy (APHIRST)-Oral Health and Dental Health Services Victoria Public Oral Health Leadership Council.