Costs

Many Australians face financial barriers in accessing dental services (COAG 2015). Overall, individuals directly fund a significant proportion of total expenditure on dental services (58% in 2016–17). 

Key terms

  • Constant prices: Constant price expenditure adjusts current prices for the effects of inflation—that is, it aims to remove the effects of inflation. For further explanation refer to the Glossary in Health expenditure Australia 2016–17
  • Dental services: Services that registered dental practitioners provide. These include oral and maxillofacial surgery items, orthodontic, pedodontic and periodontic services, cleft lip and palate services, dental assessment and other dental items listed in the MBS. The term covers dental services funded by health funds, state and territory governments and also individuals’ out-of-pocket payments. 
  • General inflation: The rise in the general price level of goods and services in the economy. 

Expenditure

Dental services expenditure data presented in this section are derived from AIHW analysis of the Health Expenditure Database.

Overall, $10.2 billion was spent on dental services in 2016–17 

  • Recurrent expenditure on dental services in Australia was $10.2 billion in 2016–17, up from $6.6 billion in 2006–07, adjusted for inflation.
  • Total expenditure on dental services increased every year from 2006–07 to 2016–17, at an average annual growth rate of 4.4%.
  • Australian Government expenditure on dental services steadily increased from $551 million in 2006–07 to $1,717 million in 2011–12, before falling to $1,273 million in 2013–14. Expenditure then increased again to just over $1,500 million annually in the period 2014–15 to 2016–17.
  • Non-government expenditure on dental services increased steadily overall, from $5,411 million in 2006–07 to $7,799 million in 2016–17.

Explore the data using the Costs interactive 1 below.

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In 2016–17, per capita expenditure on dental services was $416

  • Per capita expenditure on dental services steadily increased from $319 in 2006–07 to $416 in 2016–17, adjusted for inflation.
  • Per capita expenditure on dental services by the non-government sector increased from $262 in 2006–07 to $320 in 2016–17, adjusted for inflation. This represents an average annual growth rate of 2.0%.
  • Between 2006–07 and 2016–17, Australian Government per capita expenditure on dental services increased from $27 to $62, at an average annual growth rate of 8.8%. 
  • State/territory and local government per capita expenditure fluctuated during the period 2006–07 to 2016–17, ranging from $29 in 2012–13 to $36 in 2008–09 and 2010–11. Across the period, expenditure grew at an average annual rate of 1.5%.

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Household expenditure

Data presented in this section was sourced from the 2003–04, 2009–10 and 2015–16 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Household Expenditure Survey  (HES) (ABS 2006; ABS 2011; ABS 2017).  The ABS HES collects information on household expenditure patterns using variables such as income levels, sources, employment, family kinship, age and geographic location, to help provide a better understanding on living standards and economic wellbeing of Australians.

On average, Australian households spent $7.62 per week on dental fees in 2015–16

  • In 2015–16, Australian households spent an average of $7.62 per week on dental fees, compared to $5.74 in 2003–04 and $7.23 in 2009–10.
  • Households in the Australian Capital Territory spent an average of $13.73 per week on dental fees in 2015–16, more than any other jurisdiction. 
  • In 2015–16, South Australian households spent an average of $5.88 per week on dental fees, less than any other jurisdiction.

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Financial barriers

Data in this section were sourced from the National Dental Telephone Interview Survey, 2013. Respondents were asked a range of questions relating to the financial burden of dental care. 

People who avoided or delayed visiting a dentist due to cost

Around one-third (32%) of people aged 5 years and over avoided or delayed visiting a dentist due to cost. 

  • Females had higher rates of avoidance due to cost than males, 34% compared to 29%. 
  • People with insurance had lower rates of avoidance due to cost than those without insurance, 20% and 44% respectively.  
  • People ineligible for public dental care (29%) were more likely than those eligible for public dental care (38%) to avoid or delay visiting a dentist due to cost. 
  • Those in the lowest annual household income group (41%) had higher rates of avoiding or delaying a visit to a dentist due to cost than those in the highest annual household income group (17%).
  • There was an overall increase in the proportion of adults aged 15 years and over who avoided or delayed visiting a dentist due to cost between 1994 and 2013, from 25% to 35%.

People who reported that cost prevented recommended dental treatment 

Around 1 in 5 (20%) people aged 5 years and over who visited a dentist in the last 12 months reported that cost prevented recommended dental treatment

  • Cost was less likely to prevent recommended dental treatment for children aged 5–14 years (6.0%) than for adults aged 25–44 years (28%).
  • Adults aged 25–44 years and 45–64 years were the most likely to not receive recommended dental treatment due to cost, 28% and 26% respectively. 
  • People without insurance (25%) were more likely to report that cost prevented recommended dental treatment than those with insurance (16%).
  • People eligible for public dental care (23%) reported higher rates of cost preventing recommending dental treatment than those ineligible for public dental care (18%).
  • Those people in the lowest annual household income group (28%) were more likely to report that cost prevented recommended dental treatment than those in the highest annual household income group (11%).
  • The proportion of adults aged 15 years and over who visited a dentist in the previous 12 months and reported that cost prevented recommended dental treatment fluctuated between 1994 and 2013, from 14% in 2002 to 23% in 2013.

People stating dental visits were a large financial burden

Around 1 in 8 (12%) people aged 5 years and over reported that dental visits placed a large financial burden on them

  • Females (13%) were more likely to report that dental visits were a large financial burden than males (10%).
  • People aged 45–64 years (16%) were more likely to report that dental visits were a large financial burden than any other age group.
  • Across remoteness areas, those living in Remote and very remote areas (5.3%) were less likely to report that dental visits were a large financial burden than those living in Outer regional (9.6%), Inner regional (12%) and Major cities (12%). 
  • People with insurance were less likely to report that dental visits were a large financial burden (10%) than those without insurance (14%).
  • Those people eligible for public dental care (13%) were more likely to report that dental visits were a large financial burden that those ineligible for dental care (11%).
  • The proportion of people reporting that dental visits were a large financial burden was higher for people in the lowest two annual household income groups (both 15%) than those in the highest annual household income groups (6.6%).
  • The proportion of adults aged 15 years and over who visited a dentist in the previous 12 months and reported that dental visiting was a large financial burden fluctuated from 9.8% in 1994, to 14% in 1999 and 12% in 2013.

People who stated they would have a lot of difficulty paying for a basic preventive visit

Around 3 in 10 (28%) people aged 18 years and over stated they would have difficulty in paying a $200 dental bill

  • The proportion of females (34%) reporting difficulty in paying for a basic preventive visit was greater than the proportion of males (23%).
  • More than twice as many people without insurance (40%) stated they would have difficulty paying for a basic preventive visit than those with insurance (17%).
  • Around twice as many people eligible for public dental care (46%) stated they would have difficulty paying for a basic preventive visit than those ineligible for public dental care (22%).
  • Around 1 in 2 (54%) of those people in the lowest annual household income group reported they would have difficulty in paying for a basic preventive visit compared to around 1 in 10 (9.9%) of those people in the highest annual household income group.

Explore the data using the Costs interactives 4 and 5 below.

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References