Overview of results

This report describes levels of oral health in the adult population of the Northern Territory (NT) at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The findings are from the 2004–06 National Survey of Adult Oral Health (NSAOH). In NT, 1,082 people were interviewed and 517 people were dentally examined for the survey. This report presents percentages and means for 30 oral health indicators in tables that compare three age groups and classify people according to five sociodemographic characteristics: sex, residential locality, socioeconomic status of residential postcode, government health card status, and dental insurance status.

Oral health status

  • 2.4% of people had no natural teeth and among dentate people, an average of 3.4 teeth per person were missing. These and two other indicators of tooth loss were more frequent among government health cardholders compared with non-cardholders.
  • 34.9% of people had untreated dental decay and an average of 10.7 teeth per person were decayed, missing or filled. There was relatively little variation among sociodemographic groups in indicators of dental decay experience.
  • 18.0% of people had inflamed gums and one-quarter had moderate or severe gum disease. Two indicators of gum disease occurred more frequently outside Darwin than in the capital city.

Oral health care

  • 49.1% of people had visited a dentist within the preceding 12 months, and 39.6% said they usually did so. These and two other measures of dental attendance varied according to government health card status and dental insurance status.
  • 73.4% of people had a dentist that they usually attended, although 34.4% said that they avoided or delayed dental care due to its cost. Barriers to dental care were most strongly associated with a lack of dental insurance.

Oral health perceptions

  • 17.7% of people said they had avoided some foods due to dental problems, and 19.9% had experienced toothache, in the preceding 12 months. Perceptions of poor oral health were more likely among females than males and among government health cardholders than non-cardholders.
  • 36.0% of people felt they needed an extraction or filling, although only 3.9% said they needed dentures. There was little variation in perceived dental treatment needs among sociodemographic groups.

Age-standardised analysis revealed that government health cardholders had poorer outcomes for 14 of the 29 indicators reported, while the uninsured had poorer outcomes for 12 of the 30 indicators.