State Government Victoria Australia Department of Health header
State Government Victoria
Victorian Government Health Information
Health Home
Main A to Z Index | Site Map | About Health  

September 2021

Lady on the phone jpeg
LCHS oral health therapist Nattaya Khamphouk working through the patient triage process.

Dental triage system for lockdown

Latrobe Community Health Service has created a triage system and risk assessment tool to help clinicians balance the risk of COVID-19 community transmission against delayed dental treatment.

The tool, inspired by Dental Health Services Victoria’s specialist COVID-19 planning group, helps dental clinicians make consistent and balanced decisions about who is able to access dental care during coronavirus restrictions.

At the height of the pandemic in 2020, all dental services in Victoria stopped except for emergency treatment.

This year, dental clinicians have shifted to a principle-based approach instead – this means seeing those with urgent needs as well as those who may experience adverse outcomes if treatment is delayed.

‘The move to a principle-based approach has been incredibly positive for patients, as it provides more opportunities for them to see a clinician,’ said Link Health and Community dental general manager Felicia Valianatos.

‘While positive for clients, this approach ultimately puts a lot of pressure on clinicians to make the ‘right’ decision regarding their patients’ potential delay in treatment during a lockdown period.’

In collaboration with the LCHS dental team, Dr Valianatos created the triage system to help clinicians balance the risk of community transmission with the risk of poor oral health outcomes if patients were not seen during lockdown.

‘The tool allows our clinicians to follow a simple framework when assessing patient needs.

‘They ask a series of questions, engaging their patients as informed partners in the process, to help arrive at the most appropriate decision for that patient within the context of COVID-19,’ Dr Valianatos said.

Dental clinicians have reported feeling much more confident in their decision-making, knowing there is a robust process behind them that highlights the reasons for their clinical decisions during lockdown periods.

DHSV has shared the triage system as a possible template for all public dental agencies across the state.

Dr Valianatos was also recently accepted onto the DHSV board safety and quality committee as a representative of LCHS.