58% of dental spending out-of-pocket

Individuals contributed 58% of the $7.9 billion spent on dental services in Australia in 2010-11, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Oral health and dental care in Australia: key facts and figures 2012, shows that the $7.9 billion spent on dental services in 2010-11 was 2% more than the previous year.

The report shows that in 2010, 64% of people aged 5 and over had visited a dentist in the previous year. This ranged from 78% of children aged 5-14 to 57% of adults aged 25-44.

Noting that just over half of all people aged 5 and over had some level of private dental cover in 2010, most adults with some level of dental insurance made co-contributions towards the cost of dental visits,' said AIHW spokesperson Professor Kaye Roberts-Thomson.

'Nearly 1 in 10 insured adults paid all their own expenses, and of these about 17% reported that this caused a large financial burden.'

The report provides an omnibus 'snapshot' of the state of Australian's oral health. Some interesting statistics show:

  • In 2010, about 15% of adults reported experiencing toothache in the previous 12 months, and 25% reported feeling uncomfortable about their dental appearance.
  • About 21% of adults aged 65 and over had no natural teeth, and this was slightly higher among women.
  • In 2009, the proportion of children who had experienced decay in their baby teeth ranged from 42% for 5 year olds to 61% for 9 year olds. This was similar to the proportions in 2006, which ranged from 40% for 5 years olds to 62% for 8 year olds.
  • The proportion of children with permanent teeth affected by decay ranged from 5% for 6 year olds to 58% for 14 year olds. Using the same ages, in 2006 these figures ranged from 9.9% in 6 year olds to 54% in 14 year olds. 
  • Adults living in Remote and Very remote areas had higher rates of untreated decay than those in Major cities-38% compared with 24% in 2004-2006.

A second report, also released today, The dental health of Australia's children by remoteness: Child Dental Health Survey Australia 2009, presents similar results for children living in Remote and Very remote areas.

'This report describes the state of dental health of Australian children examined by school dental service staff in 2009,' Professor Roberts-Thomson said.

'It shows the mean number of decayed, missing or filled permanent teeth at age 6 and 12 were higher among children in Remote / Very remote areas than among children in Major cities.'

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.

Canberra, 30 May 2013

Further information: Prof. Kaye Roberts-Thomson, tel. (08) 8313 5438, mob. 0439 840 870