Assessment of oral health is particularly important for people of refugee and asylum seeker background, with reports, locally and internationally, indicating high levels of untreated caries or dental decay compared to the general host population.
A review specific to refugees reports that people are twice as likely to go for dental treatment when they are actively examined and referred by a physician.
Referral in Victoria
Refugees and asylum seekers are not to be placed on a general care wait list, but instead seen at the next available appointment.
Clients who are from a refugee or asylum seeker background are not required to pay for general, emergency, denture services at any public dental clinic.
Clients who are from a refugee or asylum seeker background are not required to pay for specialist services at the Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne.
For dental emergencies, call the Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne: 1300 360 054
Where to refer?
There are over 80 public dental services located in community health centres throughout metropolitan Melbourne and rural Victoria. Search for the nearest dental service to you and/or your client on the Dental Health Services Victoria website
How to refer?
When making a referral, it is helpful to inform your client about what to expect at a public dental clinic, including:
- Australian dental health system: specific information such as there might be a number of appointments required to complete a course of care (e.g. sometimes there is not intervention on the very first appointment)
- Entitlements: refugee and asylum seekers are entitled to priority group access and a fee waiver at public dental services in Victoria
- Appointments: even with priority group access, wait time for an appointment is often days to weeks (occasionally months depending on the demand at the public dental clinic)
- Free interpreter: clients are entitled to an interpreter and can inform the dental agency of their preference for who
- Supporting documents: clients are encouraged to bring any evidence of asylum seeker status or refugee background with them to their appointment (e.g. paperwork from DIAC, referral from settlement services etc)
- Referral letter: the referring agency should provide a letter of referral for the client requiring oral health care, often faxed directly to the dental health clinic or through a refugee health nurse/team in your region.
GPs, refugee health nurses, refugee settlement staff, or other professionals are encouraged to provide letters of referrals to oral health services to promote effective and coordinated care. Your referral letter or telephone call to dental services should contain as much information as necessary to support an oral health assessment, including:
- Clinical and social risk factors that may affect oral health outcome (e.g. single-household, house-hold duties, work hours, infectious and chronic illnesses and other comorbidities, experiences with torture and trauma etc)
- Need for an interpreter, including language, dialect and other specific information about an interpreter according to the client’s preference.
- Urgency for treatment, state whether the need is urgent or not (urgent infers that a client is experiencing pain in their oral cavity (including gums, teeth, inability to function/chew)
For particular considerations please print the oral health factsheets:
- Factsheet 1: Identifying clients of refugee or asylum seeker background
- Factsheet 2: Working with refugee and asylum seeker clients