Frequently asked questions about SA Dental

1. What does SA Dental do?

SA Dental provides a range of publicly funded dental services for eligible children and adults at clinics throughout South Australia. SA Dental also works in partnership with the University of Adelaide to educate and train a large part of the State’s dental workforce.

2. Am I eligible for publicly funded dental treatment?

Children - all babies, children and young people under 18 years of age are eligible to attend the School Dental Service regardless of their parent’s or guardian’s Pensioner Concession / Health Care Card status.

Adults - adults need to have a current Health Care Card or Pensioner Concession Card and live in South Australia to access dental care at SA Dental clinics. Adult dependents (under 19 years) of the card holder whose names are on the card, can access dental care.

A person whose name is on the card and is a partner of the card holder cannot access dental care at SA Dental clinics, unless they have their own Health Care Card or Pensioner Concession Card.

If you are uncertain about eligibility, contact your local clinic. To find the dental clinic closest to you, go to our dental clinics.

If you have a Department of Veteran’s Affairs Gold or White Card, you may be eligible for treatment funded by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. For more information, call the Department of Veterans’ Affairs on 1800 VETERAN (1800 838 372).

3. I’m not eligible for publicly funded dental treatment but I’m on a low income. Are there any affordable dental care options?

If you are not eligible for public dental treatment, you will need to seek dental care privately. While SA Dental is unable to suggest any affordable private providers, you can search the Yellow Pages of the phone book for a private dentist that is conveniently located to you, or do a Google search on “affordable dentists SA” and/or “dental no interest loan schemes”. If you are concerned about your ability to pay the fees charged by private dentists all at the one time, you could consider getting quotes from a few practices, or approaching a private provider to negotiate payment arrangements.

4. I’m not an Australian resident. Can I access public dental care in South Australia?

If you are not an Australian resident, you are not eligible for public dental care and will need to have your dental treatment provided by a private dental provider at your own cost.

Overseas visitors - if you are visiting from overseas and require dental care, you will need to be seen by a private dental provider at your own cost. Your private travel or health insurance may cover some of your costs.

Overseas adult students - if you are an overseas adult student studying in South Australia and require dental care, you will most likely need to be seen by a private dental provider at your own cost. However, it may be worth checking whether your country of origin has any arrangements in place which might entitle you to assistance with accessing dental care and/or meeting treatment costs.

5. I’m visiting from interstate. Can I access public dental care in South Australia?

If you are visiting from interstate and are eligible for public dental care, you may be able to access emergency only dental care through SA Dental if you have facial swelling, bleeding or trauma. You may also be able to access urgently required denture repairs.

6. What if I have a dental emergency such as facial swelling, bleeding or trauma?

If you are not eligible for public dental treatment and experience severe facial swelling, bleeding or trauma, you should see a dentist, your local doctor or attend your local hospital.

If you are eligible for public dental treatment and have a dental emergency during normal business hours, contact your local clinic (PDF 41KB).

You can find the dental clinic closest to you, on our dental clinics page.

After hours, call Healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222 for advice on further care options.

7. What do I have to do to arrange a check-up or dental treatment?

As an adult, if you believe you are eligible for treatment through SA Dental, you should phone your nearest Community Dental Service clinic for further information. For children, phone the nearest School Dental Service clinic for an appointment.

8. Where’s my closest clinic?

To find the clinic closest to you, go to our dental clinics page.

9. When’s the best time to phone a clinic?

Most dental clinics are available by phone from 8.45 am to 4.15 pm Monday to Friday. Clinic phones are often busiest early in the morning, so where possible general enquiries should be made later in the day.

If a clinic is closed for some reason eg staff training, lunch, school holidays or refurbishment, a recorded message will let you know when the clinic will reopen and/or give you another number to call in an emergency.

10. What will happen if I call one of the SA Dental clinics to ask for an appointment?

As an adult, if you phone your local community dental clinic, staff will first assess your dental situation by asking you some questions.

Depending on the outcome from that assessment, you may be:

  • offered an appointment within a day or two; or
  • offered an appointment within a few weeks or
  • invited to place your name on a waiting list, if you have not already done so.

If an appointment is offered, treatment may be provided:

  • in-house at a local Community Dental Service clinic or
  • at the Adelaide Dental Hospital or
  • at a private dentist under one of the Dental Schemes operated by SA Dental.

As a parent, if you phone your local School Dental clinic, staff will ask you a few questions about your child and then offer an appointment. Your child will be seen by a dental therapist or dentist who will assess your child’s dental needs and talk with you about what general dental care might be provided. You will need to go to the appointment with your child, to provide consent for treatment.

Treatment through SA Dental may be provided by students under the supervision of qualified dental professionals.

11. What if I’m offered student care but don’t want it?

Students who are being trained under supervision are an integral part of the public dental system. Students assist us to provide more services and better manage our waiting lists. While a number of students undertake clinical placements in some of our community clinics, a significant amount of student training is done at the Adelaide Dental Hospital.

As an adult, if you are assessed as being suitable for dental care with students but you decline the offer, your offer of care may be withdrawn. You may place your name back on the bottom of the waiting list. However, when your name next comes to the top of the waiting list, your offer of care may again be with a dental student.

12. Can I have dental treatment at any SA Dental clinic?

We encourage you to attend the community or school dental service clinic closest to where you live. However you may attend another clinic if it is more convenient for you to do so.

13. Are there waiting lists for public dental care?

There are waiting lists for almost all adult dental services. Waiting times vary dependent on the clinic and the type of dental care required. There are no waiting lists for general dental care for children who are eligible to attend the School Dental Service, although it may take a few weeks to get an appointment for a preferred day or time.

14. I’m eligible for public dental care and would like to add my name to the waiting list. What do I need to do?

You will usually need to visit your local clinic to arrange for this to occur. Contact your local clinic (PDF 44KB) if you have any questions about this.

15. My name is on the waiting list. How do I find out how much longer I have to wait?

Your local clinic will be able to give you an idea of how much longer you might have to wait for dental care. Contact your local clinic (PDF 44KB).

To find the dental clinic closest to you, go to our dental clinics.

16. I want to change my appointment, update my contact details, or advise that I no longer require your services. How do I do this?

Contact your local clinic (PDF 44KB).

17. What will happen if I don’t attend my appointment?

Appointments for dental care are arranged so that as many people as possible can be seen in a day.

If you don’t attend your appointment or don’t tell us early enough that you can’t get to your appointment, then the clinic is left with a vacancy. So the sooner you let clinic staff know that you won’t be able to attend, the greater the chance of your appointment time being offered to someone else in need.

While an unexpected event can arise for anyone, if you are receiving a full course of dental care (not just emergency care) and fail to attend or cancel an appointment twice in a row without a reasonable explanation, then that course of care will be cancelled. If you still want a full course of dental care, your name will have to go back on the bottom of the waiting list. Different arrangements may apply for specialist units at the Adelaide Dental Hospital.

18. Do I have to pay for dental treatment?

Preschool children - Dental care is FREE for all children from birth to five years old or not yet at school School Dental Service Clinics.

Primary and secondary school children and young people aged under 18 - dental care is free for most primary and secondary school children. SA Dental will bulk bill Medicare. A small fee may apply for school children who are not covered by the Child Dental Benefits Schedule or a concession card. For more information about fees, contact your local clinic (PDF 44KB). For more information about the Child Dental Benefits Schedule, visit the Human Services website.

Adults adult concession card holders are required to contribute towards the costs of their dental care in South Australia. From 1 July each year, fees for public dental care usually increase and affect all dental services. Fees differ depending on whether you have general or emergency dental care, dentures or specialist services. Staff will speak with you about your costs before you have treatment. For more information about adult client fees and how to pay, go to our Dental care for adults page.

19. What if I can’t afford the fees?

If you are experiencing severe financial hardship, speak with clinic staff who can discuss payment options with you and if needed, can refer you to a financial counsellor who may be able to help. If you have a serious dental emergency such as facial swelling, significant bleeding or trauma and require urgent care, you will not be refused treatment if you cannot pay.

20. Can I claim any of my SA Dental costs through a private health fund?

Whether or not private health insurance providers will reimburse any of your fees is at their discretion, so you will need to check this out directly with your private health fund provider.

21. I think I need specialist treatment. What’s available?

Access to specialist dental treatment is limited. However, the Adelaide Dental Hospital (ADH) which is part of SA Dental and is located on North Terrace, Adelaide, provides some specialist dental treatment such as orthodontics, specialist restorative care and oral surgery.

To access any of these specialist services, a referral is needed from a community dental clinic. Therefore contact with your local clinic is always a first step. If your treatment is able to be provided at the ADH, staff at your local clinic can speak with you about the referral and assessment process, any costs and likely waiting times. For more information about the range of specialist services provided by the ADH, go to our Services at Adelaide Dental Hospital page.

22. I have mobility difficulties and use a wheelchair. How will my dental treatment be provided?

If you are unable to make an unassisted transfer from your wheelchair into the dentist’s chair, you may be provided with dental treatment whilst in your wheelchair, depending on the complexity of the dental care you require. If this is not possible, your dentist will discuss other options with you, which may include a referral for treatment at another location.

23. I am (my child is) fearful about having dental treatment. How will this be addressed?

Some people might be a little anxious about seeing a dental practitioner. There are a number of ways that this might be managed. Your dental practitioner will be able to talk with you about how best to provide treatment.

24. What's the Child Dental Benefits Schedule?

The Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) provides Commonwealth funded dental care to most children under 18 years of age. SA Dental bulk bills Medicare for care provided to children who are eligible under this program. For more information about the Child Dental Benefits Schedule, visit the Human Services website.

25. Another dentist, health provider, third party eg lawyer, SA Police, insurance company wants a copy of my SA Dental treatment records. What do they need to do?

You may wish to allow another party (dentist / health provider / third party – eg. lawyer / SA Police) to access your dental records.  Alternatively you may wish to allow SA Dental to provide your records to another party.  Once your permission in writing is provided, the other party will need to complete the relevant form and return it to your clinic.  The forms allow SA Dental to release information and to access information.

26. What if I want a copy of my SA Dental treatment records just for my own information?

There are times when you might need to access a copy of your treatment information. The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 1991 generally gives you the right to access a copy of your records. You can request your records personally or through a third party. If you believe that your records are incorrect, out of date or misleading, you can ask for your records to be amended. To find out more about making a FOI application and the fees and charges that apply, or for an Application Form, go to our Access to your information page.

27. If I need help to make informed decisions about my oral health care, may I bring someone else to an appointment?

Understanding information about dental treatment and care is important. You are welcome to request the presence of another person who may be a friend, family member, carer or advocate. If an interpreter is needed at your appointment, speak with clinic staff before your visit, so that arrangements can be made for this to occur. NOTE: Only accredited interpreters, not friends or family members, can be used to interpret.

28. What are my rights in relation to the dental care of someone for whom I have custody or guardianship?

If you are the custodial parent or guardian of a relative’s / friend’s child (in loco parentis), you have the right to be informed of and make decisions about that child’s dental treatment until they are 16 years old. From the age of 16, the young person has a right to make their own decisions about dental and medical treatment.

Where a child or young person is under the Guardianship of the Minister for Families and Communities, a carer and/or departmental worker is usually involved in decision-making. Treatment for these children and young people is free.

If a person is ill and unable to make decisions about their medical treatment, you can make those decisions for them if you have a Medical Power of Attorney.

29. I need some help to make contact with SA Dental. What can I do?

If for any reason you feel that you are unable to properly explain your ideas or concerns, or you need some help to deal with an issue, speak with clinic staff who may be able to assist. If needed, staff can also organise an accredited interpreter for you, including Auslan interpreters.

30. I want to provide some feedback to SA Dental. How do I do this?

Your comments are welcome and help us to improve our services.

You may wish to:

  • pass on a compliment or
  • comment or offer a service improvement idea or
  • make a complaint.

Please speak with clinic staff, or your Local Operations Manager (for adult and school dental clinics) or Hospital Unit Manager (Adelaide Dental Hospital) in the first instance. For more information, go to our Have your say page.

31. I’m looking for some oral health resources. Do you have any posters, brochures, information sheets I can access?

For downloadable resources and for ordering printed resources go to our Oral health resources page for details.

32. I would like to find out about job opportunities in SA Dental. Do you have some information to which I can refer?

SA Dental needs a large number of staff to provide oral health services to the community, so we welcome enquiries from people who may be able to help us achieve this aim.

To find out more about SA Dental roles and job opportunities, go to our see Oral health careers page.