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People who can't afford a dentist

In 2013, survey data shows nearly a third of people aged 5 or older (32%) avoided or delayed visiting a dentist due to cost. This ranged from almost 11% of children aged 5–14 to 45% for adults aged 25–44.

From 1994 to 2013, there was an increase in the proportion of adults avoiding visits, from about 25% to 35%. For children, there was no overall change, although there was some year-to-year variation.

Figure 1: People avoiding dental visiting due to cost, 1994–2013

Stacked line chart showing (people 15plus; children 5-14); year (1994 to 2013) on the x axis; per cent (0 to 35) on the y axis.

Source: National Dental Telephone Interview Survey 1994 to 2013.

In 2013, cost prevented just over one-quarter of adults aged 25–64 from having their recommended treatment. Cost prevented only 6% of children aged 5–14 from having their recommended treatment.

Overall, for the period 1994 to 2010, the proportion of adults who had cost prevent their treatment fluctuated between 14% and 23%. For children, there was no overall change, fluctuating between 4% and 8% over the period.

Figure 2: Cost prevented recommended treatment, 1994–2013

Stacked line chart showing (adults 15plus; children 5-14); year (1994 to 2013) on the x axis; per cent (0 to 25) on the y axis.

Source: National Dental Telephone Interview Survey 1994 to 2013.

Dental insurance


graphic showing about 1/2 of Australians aged 5 and older had some private dental cover

About 1 in 2

Australians aged 5 and older had some private health insurance with dental cover.


In 2013 the National Dental Telephone Interview Survey found that, half of all people aged 5 and over (50.3%) had some level of dental insurance. The proportion of people with some dental insurance was higher in Major cities (53%) than in Inner regional and Outer regional areas (45% and 44%).

Over three-quarters of dentate adults in the highest household income group (78%) had some level of dental insurance. Less than one-third of adults in the bottom household income groups (ranging from 23%) had dental insurance.

The majority of adults with insurance reported that their insurance paid some (77%) or all (9%) of the dental costs of their last visit. About 10% of insured adults paid all their own dental expenses.

Almost one-fifth of insured adults (19%) who were required to cover their own dental expenses said it caused a large financial burden.

How much is spent on dental services?

Recurrent expenditure on dental services in Australia (excluding hospitals) was $8,706 million in 2012–13, an increase from $5,945 million (adjusted for inflation) in 2008–09.

In 2012–13 the largest source of funds for dental expenditure was individuals, paying directly out-of-pocket for 58.2% of total dental costs. Health insurance funds provided a further 16.0%. Australian government premium rebates accounted for 7.0%, and other government contributions funded 18.3% of total expenditure (10.8% Australian government direct outlay and 7.5% from state and local governments).

In 2012–13, $380 was spent per capita, $284 of this by the non-government sector (mainly individuals).

Figure 3: Per capita expenditure on dental services, constant prices

Stacked line chart showing (Australian government; non-government; state/territory and local government; total dental expenditure); year (2002-03 to 2012-13) on the x axis; amount (0 to 400) on the y axis.

Who makes up the dental workforce?

In 2013 there were 15,479 registered dentists, of whom 88% where employed in their field. There were 1,195 dental prosthetists, 1,759 dental hygienists, 943 oral health therapists and 1,093 dental therapists registered. In each of the professions 85% or over were employed in their field.


graphic showing Dental workforce

Dental workforce

In 2013 there were about 56 dentists, 5 dental hygienists, 5 dental prosthetists, 3 dental therapists and 3 oral health therapists employed per 100,000 people.


The majority of employed dentists and prosthetists were men (62% and 86% respectively) while the majority of dental hygienists, dental therapists and oral health therapists were women (94%, 98% and 86% respectively).

Also in 2013, 23% of dentists were aged 55 or older. This compares to 34% of prosthetists and 28% of dental therapists. Dental hygienists and oral health therapists tended to be younger with just 7% and 3% aged 55 or older.

Most dentists were employed in Major cities (80.0% of all employed dentists), while only 0.9% were in Remote/Very remote areas. Major cities had the highest rates of all dental practitioners with the exception of dental therapists, where the highest rates were in Remote/Very remote areas.

Dental specialties

The largest group of dentists with specialist qualifications was orthodontists (535 or 38.0%). The majority of dental specialists were employed in Major cities (90.2%).

Figure 4: Employed dentists not working in the area of general dental practice, by specialty, 2013

cost-dentist-figure3a

Source: AIHW NHWDS 2013.

The jurisdiction with the highest FTE rate per 100,000 population for dental specialists was the Australian Capital Territory (11.0), and the lowest was the Northern Territory with an FTE rate of 2.8.

Figure 5: Employed dental specialists not working in the area of general dental practice

cost-dentist-figure4

Notes:

  1. Derived from state and territory of main job where available; otherwise, state and territory of principal practice is used as a proxy. If principal practice details are unavailable, state and territory of residence is used. Records with no information on all 3 locations are coded to ‘Not stated’.
  2. ‘Australia’ includes dental specialists who did not state or adequately describe their location and those who were overseas.
  3. FTE rate is per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW NHWDS:2013.

Produced by the AIHW and the Dental Statistics and Research Unit, Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, University of Adelaide.

Supported by the Australian Government Department of Health.