How to get dental care in the Western Uusimaa Wellbeing Services County?

28.3.2023 7.24

We have received many questions about booking appointments for oral healthcare and access to oral healthcare. We discuss the situation in more detail below.

In oral healthcare, there is a division into urgent cases (such as intense pain or serious dental injuries) and non-urgent cases.  

Contacting dental care services 

You can contact our dental care services by phone or online. On the telephone, a dental professional will assess the urgency of the care. Instructions and phone numbers for individual municipalities can be found on our website. To view the information on individual municipalities, go to the municipality menu at the bottom of the page. In some of the municipalities, such as Espoo, you can also make, move and cancel your appointment online.  

“When taking calls, we always give priority to urgent calls, which we can answer almost immediately, in many cases within an hour,” explains Arja Liinavuori, service line director for oral healthcare services in the Western Uusimaa Wellbeing Services County.

“Unfortunately, in many municipalities, there has been a huge backlog of phone calls concerning non-urgent oral healthcare during the early months of this year and some people have been forced to wait for the return call for more than a week.”  

For example, in Espoo, there was a backlog of 2,750 non-urgent calls on Tuesday 14 March 2023. Other municipalities had a backlog of between 100 and 300 calls. The number of calls has been higher than during the same period last year.

“In Espoo, we are able to make about 800 calls each weekday, which means that it will take about four weekdays to eliminate the current backlog,” Liinavuori says.

“We are sorry about the delays. Our personnel are working hard to eliminate the backlog and we also make return calls on weekends.” 

How quickly can I get to a dentist? 

Most of the dental check-ups for children aged under 7 and for school pupils can be provided as planned.  

For adults, first aid for dental problems determined as urgent is provided on the same day. During evenings and weekends, urgent care is available in HUS Park Hospital. When it comes to non-urgent services, the situation is more difficult. Appointments can be booked for a few months in advance and new appointment times are made available on a regular basis. 

This means that you may have to wait for a few months before getting an appointment for a dentist.

“Every effort is made to book the appointment for further treatment for the same dentist. Our aim is that the treatment process can be completed within a reasonable period of time,” Liinavuori explains.  

Why cannot I get an appointment for a dental check-up?  

This is an important issue but there is no clear-cut answer to this question. One reason for the backlog is that the demand for oral healthcare has increased because of such factors as population growth. The same professionals that used to work in municipalities now work at the dental clinics of the wellbeing services county, which means that the new wellbeing services county has not automatically created additional appointment capacity. Moreover, there is a continuous shortage of personnel at dental clinics and as a result, fewer appointment times are available.

“We have a particularly severe shortage of dental assistants and oral hygienists but there are also vacancies for dentists in the Western Uusimaa Wellbeing Services County. Sometimes we do not get any applications for vacancies,” Liinavuori says.

“We also hire dentists and dental assistants through private employment agencies, but workforce cannot always be found in this way either.”  

If there are no appointment times available at a dental clinic of the Western Uusimaa Wellbeing Services County, one option would be to use outsourced services or a dental clinic accepting service vouchers.  

Using outsourced services or service vouchers 

If we are unable to offer an appointment at any of the wellbeing services county’s dental clinics, one option would be to use outsourced services or a dental clinic accepting service vouchers. Our dental professionals taking clients’ calls always determine whether the treatment could be provided as an outsourced service or by means of a service voucher.  

Service vouchers can be used to provide a full dental treatment process from check-ups to fillings and removal of teeth. At a check-up, you are provided with an estimate of the number of visits needed and the price. Depending on the treatment required, the service is between 20 per cent and 40 per cent more expensive than the service provided at our own dental clinics.  

If you do not want to use the service voucher alternative, you can get the same treatment at one of our own dental clinics. Sometimes you may have to wait longer or booking an appointment may require more than one phone call.  

Outsourced services are not available in all municipalities, and problems affecting one or two teeth can be treated at outsourced dental clinics. Appointments for oral hygienists are also available as outsourced services. The client pays the same price for the outsourced service as for the service provided by the Western Uusimaa Wellbeing Services County. 

Towards better dental care 

Harmonisation of the services and operating practices in the wellbeing services county is still in its early stages. The aim is that in the future, all units in the wellbeing services county operate in the same manner and such matters as appointment times are provided on a similar basis. Well-thought-out division of work and technical solutions can also help to improve service quality.  

Other solutions to improve the situation include 

  • continuous recruitment of new employees. We also hire students and part-time staff. When we have more employees, we can also offer more appointment times. 

  • Harmonisation of our internal operating practices and flexible development of the operations.  

  • Extensive use of our facilities and the services of our partners: Dentists hired through private employment agencies can work in our facilities, while at the same time, we can also refer our clients to outsourced dental clinics or dental clinics accepting service vouchers.  

“We are making every effort to ensure that we can provide people in Western Uusimaa with better oral healthcare in the future,” Liinavuori promises.  

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