Facts on dental health in Australia

30% of Australians currently go without regular dental care due to cost, unavailability of services and other barriers.

Public dental patients are more likely than other Australians to have dental decay.

More than one in three Australians delay or avoid dental treatment because they can’t afford it (that's more than 7 million people).

Public dental patients are more likely than other Australians to have dental decay.ii

Nearly half 6-year-old children have decay in their ‘baby’ teeth.iii

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged between 4-15 years are more likely than other children to experience dental disease.iv

The groups of people who are least likely to be able to access proper care and treatment are those on lower than average incomes, people living in rural and remote areas, Indigenous people, aged care facility residents, people with disabilities, young adults on income support payments and sole parents.

Among people with serious oral health problems:

  • 9 out of 10 experience pain or discomfort;
  • 9 out of 10 have experienced embarrassment due to their teeth, contributing to poor self image, reducing their social interactions and limiting employment prospects;v and
  • common dental diseases cause extensive tissue infection, resulting in an estimated 32,000 preventable hospitalisations per year.vi

People in rural and remote areas commonly experience waiting times in excess of two years. Waiting lists for general treatment can go as high as three and a half years in some parts of the country.vii As a result middle aged and older adults with health care cards are twice as likely as other Australians to have had all their teeth extracted. Those card holders who have kept some natural teeth are twice as likely to have too few teeth for effective chewing and these teeth have nearly twice as much untreated decay.viii

 

i Slade et al (eds) (2007) ‘Australia’s dental generations: the National Survey of Adult Oral Health 2004–06’, Dental Statistics and Research Series No. 34, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

ii Brennan (2008) ‘Oral health of adults in the public dental sector’, Dental statistics and research series no. 47, AIHW.

iii Armfield et al (2009) ‘Dental health of Australia’s teenagers and pre-teen children: the Child Dental Health Survey, Australia 2003–04’, Dental statistics and research series no. 52, AIHW.

iv Jamieson et al (2007), ‘Oral health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’, Dental Statistics and Research Unit, AIHW.

v Bond (2010) ‘Public Dental Care and the teeth First Trial: A history of decay’, Brotherhood of St Laurence.

vi Standing Committee on Social Issues (2006) ‘Dental services in NSW (Report 37)’, NSW Parliament, Legislative Council.

vii Bond (2010) ‘Public Dental Care and the teeth First Trial: A history of decay’, Brotherhood of St Laurence.

viii National Survey of Adult oral Health (2007) ‘Australia's dental generations: the National Survey of Adult Oral Health 2004-06’,

Dental statistics and research series no. 34, Australian Institute of Health & Welfare

Oral health and dental care in Australia - Key facts and figures 2012

Richardson End the decay 2011