Oral health rated well by most Australians, but dependent on socioeconomic status

Nearly 4 in 5 Australian adults rated their oral health as good, very good or excellent in 2008, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

However just over 1 in 5 Australian adults rated their oral health as poor or fair, and many of these Australians fell into categories of low socioeconomic status.

The report, Self-rated oral health of adults, identifies associations between self-rated oral health and socioeconomic factors, such as education, private dental insurance, health care card status, home ownership and difficulty paying a $150 dental bill.

When asked ‘How do you rate your oral health?’ over 65% of Australians responded ‘good’ or ‘very good’ and 11% as ‘excellent’, but 21% rated their oral health as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’.

‘About 30% of those aged 25 to 64 years without dental insurance and almost 40% of those aged 45 to 65 years who were renting their home rated their oral health as fair or poor,’ said Dr Jane Harford of the AIHW’s Dental Statistics and Research Unit.

Lower levels of education were also associated with poorer self-rated oral health in all age groups.

‘The largest difference was in the 25 to 44 year age group, in which 25% of those without tertiary education rated their oral health as poor, compared with 14% of those with at least some tertiary education,’ Dr Harford said.

Among people aged 25 to 44, those who reported difficulty in paying a $150 dental bill were more likely to report fair or poor oral health than those who reported no difficulty in paying a $150 dental bill.

A second report released today, Socioeconomic variation in periodontitis among Australian adults 2004-06, examines how periodontitis (inflammation of the tissues surrounding the teeth) varies by socioeconomic status.

‘The report shows that moderate and severe periodontitis was found in nearly one-quarter of Australian adults aged 18 years and older. Periodontitis is strongly related to age and also household income. After adjusting for age and sex, the prevalence of periodontitis is almost twice as great in lower income than higher income households,’ Dr Harford said.

Several other AIHW dental reports were also released today:

  • Age and the costs of dental care
  • Trends in access to dental care among Australian teenagers
  • Trends in access to dental care among Australian adults  


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