The faculty provides “reduced cost” treatment, but Covid-19 has created a major backlog, meaning some patients could be waiting for up to 18 months.
A dental school client for more than 30 years, who declined to be named, contacted the Otago Daily Times and said she recently broke a back tooth in half, and was told it could not be fixed with a new filling or a crown.
“I was told the waiting list to get it extracted and a bridge fitted, was six to 18 months.
“I cannot afford a private dentist, so now I have to wait with a broken tooth for so long.
“It’s really uncomfortable when I eat.”
Faculty of Dentistry dean Prof Paul Cooper said the faculty was run by the university and was a place of teaching and learning.
“We have been providing treatment to members of the public at reduced rates since 1907 and would have provided many hundreds of thousands of people with dental care over this time.
“Our rates are reduced as patients are being treated by trainee dentists, and because of the reduced rates, there is high demand and a waiting list of people wanting to be treated.”
Prof Cooper would not say how many people were on a waiting list for more than six months for treatment.
If patients required immediate dental services, they would need to make their own arrangements with private dental services in Dunedin, he said.
“We select patients depending on the services we are training for, and other factors such as semester breaks impact the availability of students to carry out dental care.
“For example, our final clinics for the year are this week and our clinics do not resume again until March, 2023.”
The pandemic had severely affected treatment with student clinics over the past three years because there had been numerous closures due to Covid-19.
“This has been the main driver for our increased waiting list length.
“We are acutely aware of the situation and currently working through plans as to how we may be able to reduce the waiting list in the future.”
The school was not a publicly funded hospital for this training work, he said.
“We do believe it is providing a positive service to members of the community, but it must also serve in the interest of our students’ learning programme.”