This publication reports on the oral health, dental visiting and dental treatment needs of Australian adults as self-reported in the National Dental Telephone Interview Survey (NDTIS) 2010. Time series data across all NDTISs conducted since 1994 are also presented to provide a picture of how key measures have changed over this period. International comparisons are also included.

Oral health

In 2010, the majority of Australian adults reported good oral health. However, 37% reported that they had experienced an oral health issue in the previous 12 months, including 15% who experienced toothache, 25% who felt uncomfortable with their dental appearance and 17% who had avoided certain foods.

Adults who were from low-income households or held an Australian Government concession card were more likely to report having 'fair' or 'poor' oral health and to have experienced toothache than adults from high-income households or non-cardholders. There was no significant change over time in these measures.

Dental visiting

Around 60% of adults made a dental visit in the previous 12 months and the majority of these visited for a check-up (60%). Adults in the lowest income group (51%) and cardholders (those who hold an Australian Government concession card) (53%) were less likely than those in the highest household income group (65%) and non-cardholders (64%) to have made a dental visit in the previous 12 months.

Adults from Major cities were more likely than those from all other areas to have made a dental visit and to have visited for a check-up.

Barriers to dental care use

Around 38% of adults experienced a financial barrier or hardship associated with dental visits. Overall, 31% avoided or delayed making a dental visit due to cost. Of those who did visit, around 11% of adults reported that dental visits in the previous 12 months were a large financial burden. Adults from the lowest income households were seven times as likely to report difficulty paying a $150 dental bill than those from high-income households.

International comparisons

Australian adults reported oral health similar to their Canadian counterparts but generally better than that of New Zealanders. Fewer Australians than New Zealanders had no natural teeth. However, Australians were more likely than their New Zealand counterparts to have made a dental visit in the previous 12 months but less likely than those in Canada to do so.

Australian adults were more likely at all ages than Canadian adults to report that they had avoided or delayed visiting due to cost. However, they were less likely to have avoided or delayed due to cost than New Zealanders in all age groups up to 45-54 years and less likely to report that they currently needed dental care.