Children's dental health good, but needs brushing up in poorer areas

Children's dental health in Australia is better than many other countries, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), but children from disadvantaged socioeconomic areas have poorer dental health than other Australian children.

The report, Socioeconomic differences in children's dental health: The Child Dental Health Survey, Australia 2001, shows that of the 41 countries with comparable national data, Australia had the fifth lowest average number of decayed, missing and filled permanent teeth among 12-year-olds.

In 2001, the average 12-year-old in Australia had just one decayed, missing or filled permanent tooth, but over 40% of them had evidence of dental disease. The average 6-year-old child in Australia had about two (1.9) decayed, missing or filled baby teeth, and close to half of those children (47.3%) had evidence of dental disease.

'The report showed that, across all ages, children living in the socioeconomically better-off areas had fewer decayed, missing and filled teeth than those living in the worse-off areas,' said Mr Jason Armfield of the AIHW's Dental Statistics and Research Unit based in the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health at The University of Adelaide.

Children from better-off areas also derived more benefit from fissure sealants-a material to protect from decay-than children from worse-off areas. The average number of decayed missing and filled teeth was 18% lower for children without sealants from the best-off areas compared to children from the worse-off areas.

The more socioeconomically advantaged the metropolitan children were, the fewer decayed, missing and filled teeth they had. However, for rural and remote children there was no such gradient and only those in the best-off areas had an advantage in their dental health.

17 August 2006

Further information: Mr Jason Armfield, AIHW ARCPOH, tel. 08 8303 4050.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 61 2 6244 1032.