Australians are significantly more likely to visit a dentist—particularly for check-ups and preventive care services—if they have dental insurance, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report, Insurance and use of dental services: National Dental Telephone Interview Survey 2010, shows a higher proportion of Australian adults with dental insurance had made a dental visit in the last 12 months (70.9%) than those who did not have insurance (48.3%).
The use of preventive care services was also more common among people with dental insurance.
‘A greater proportion of adults who had dental insurance visited for a check-up than those who did not have insurance,’ said AIHW spokesperson Associate Professor David Brennan.
‘And a higher proportion of adults with insurance had scale and clean services in the previous 12 months than those without insurance.’
While people with insurance tended to seek services oriented to prevention of problems and retention of natural teeth, people without insurance required treatment for dental problems.
A higher proportion of adults without insurance (43.9%) had fillings than those with insurance (37.2%), and extractions were more common among those without insurance (19% compared to 10.4%). A lower proportion of those with insurance received dentures (3.2%) than those without insurance (6.3%).
Adults who visited the dentist in the last 12 months made 2.3 dental visits on average, and this did not vary between people with and without insurance.
‘This suggests that while insurance reduces costs of dental care, it does not lead to unreasonable use of dental services,’ Associate Professor Brennan said.
Among people with dental insurance, dental visit and treatment patterns were similar for those who were Australian Government concession cardholders and non-cardholders.
Among people who were cardholders, dental visit and treatment patterns varied depending on whether the cardholder was also insured.
‘Cardholders are entitled to free or subsidised dental care provided by state and territory governments,’ Associate Professor Brennan said.
‘But even with this entitlement, cardholders without insurance were far less likely to visit the dentist for a check-up than cardholders with insurance.’
The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.