Dental health - the differences

The dental health of Indigenous people, migrants, and rural and remote dwellers is examined in three new reports released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Adult access to dental care - Indigenous Australians shows that a greater percentage of Indigenous people have lost all their teeth compared with other Australians (28% compared with 14% among 45 to 64-year-olds, and 16% to 11% overall).

Director of the AIHW Dental Statistics and Research Unit at The University of Adelaide, Professor John Spencer, noted that among adults who still had some teeth, Indigenous adults were more likely than others to go to the dentist for a problem rather than for a routine check-up (77% compared with 56%). 'They made fewer visits and received fewer fillings, but experienced more toothaches in the last 12 months.' Among those Indigenous patients receiving public dental care there were higher percentages with advanced gum disease (25.4% compared with 11.6%) and three times the rate of extractions compared to non-Indigenous patients.

Adult access to dental care - rural and remote dwellers shows that 50% of adults aged 65 or over who live in rural areas have no natural teeth, compared with 43% in remote areas and 36% in urban areas. For all adults, 16% of rural dwellers have no natural teeth, compared with 9% for both remote and urban dwellers. People living in remote areas were less likely to have visited a dentist recently, while both rural and remote dwellers visited dentists for problems rather than check-ups and received more extractions and fewer fillings.

The third report, Adult access to dental care - migrants, shows that language barriers appear to be a disadvantage in accessing dental care and in achieving satisfactory results from such care.

Professor Spencer said that overseas-born people who spoke a language other than English were more likely than Australian-born adults to see a dentist for a problem rather than for a check-up - 61% compared to 56%. 'They have more extractions, more fillings, more toothaches, less insurance and more difficulty paying dental bills.

'We also found the same group less likely to be satisfied with the results of their dental care than Australian-born people, and overseas-born people who speak English only.'

Adult access to dental care - Indigenous Australians, Adult access to dental care - rural and remote dwellers, and Adult access to dental care - migrants are based on a series of National Dental Telephone Interview Surveys and associated Dental Satisfaction Surveys conducted in 1994, 1995 and 1996 and the Prospective Adult Dental Programs Survey conducted in 1995-96. Professor Spencer said that more comprehensive information was needed on dental care and dental health among disadvantaged groups to assist policy development in this area.

11 May 1999


Further information: Professor John Spencer, DSRU, ph. 08 8303 5438, or Knute Carter, DSRU, ph. 08 8303 3067.
For media copies of the report: Mrs Lena Searle, AIHW, ph. 02 6244 1032.
Availability: Check the AIHW Publications Catalogue for details.