Dental care

A dental visit can provide an opportunity for the provision of preventive dental care to maintain existing oral health, as well as treatment services that may reverse disease or rehabilitate the teeth and gums after damage occurs.

Key terms

  • Favourable dental visiting pattern: Visiting a dentist once or more a year (usually for a check-up) and having a usual dental provider.
  • Unfavourable dental visiting pattern: Visiting less than once every two years (usually for a problem), or visiting once every two years (usually for a problem) and without a regular dental provider.
  • Intermediate dental visiting pattern: Visiting classified as neither favourable or unfavourable.
  • Smoker status: The extent to which a respondent was smoking at the time of interview. Full description in ABS Glossary.
  • Alcohol consumption: Assessed using the 2009 NHMRC guidelines for the consumption of alcohol.

Health service usage

The Australia-wide 2011–12 Australian Health Survey (ABS 2013) and the 2014–15 National Health Survey (ABS 2017), conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), collected a range of information about the health of Australians including their use of health services such as consultations with dentists or other dental professionals. The data presented in this section were sourced from these two surveys.

In 2014–15, almost half (47%) of all Australians had consulted a dentist or dental professional in the last 12 months.

In 2014–15, the proportion of people who had consulted a dentist or dental professional in the last 12 months was:

  • higher for females (50%) than males (44%)
  • higher for those from Major cities (49%) than for those from Inner regional (42%) and Outer regional and remote (42%) areas
  • lower for those from the most disadvantaged areas (37%) than those from the least disadvantaged areas (60%) (according to SEIFA Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage)
  • lower for those who exceeded lifetime risk alcohol consumption guidelines (45%) than those who did not exceed guidelines (51%)
  • lower for current smokers (36%) than those who have never smoked (48%)
  • lower in the Northern Territory (41%) than any other state or territory.

Results from the 2011–12 survey are also included in Dental care interactive 1 for comparison. Explore the data further here:

In 2014–15, around one-quarter of all Australians (26%) had last consulted a dentist or dental professional more than 2 years ago.

  • Around 1 in 5 (21%) children aged 2–14 years have never consulted a dentist or dental professional.
  • Nearly half (46%) of adults aged 85 years and over last consulted a dentist or dental professional more than 2 years ago.

Results from the 2011–12 survey are also included in Dental care interactive 2 for comparison. Explore the data further here:

Visiting a dental practitioner and dental visiting patterns

Data in this section were sourced from the 2013 National Dental Telephone Interview Survey (AIHW 2016).

Dental services

In 2013, dentate people aged 5 years and over, who made a dental visit in the last 12 months, made an average of 2.41 visits.

  • On average, each person had a scale and clean, around 2 in 3 had a filling and around 1 in 4 had an extraction.
  • People in Major cities made, on average, 2.50 visits per year whereas people in Outer regional and Remote and very remote areas made, on average, 1.98 and 1.97 visits per year, respectively.
  • People whose annual household income was less than $30,000 had more fillings (0.91) and extractions (0.47) than those whose annual household incomes was more than $30,000.
  • The proportion of adults aged 15 years and over who received a filling gradually decreased from 0.90 in 1994 to 0.70 in 2013.

Reason for last visit

In 2013, 64% of dentate people aged 5 years and over, who made a dental visit in the previous 2 years, visited for a check-up.

  • The proportion of dentate people aged 5 years and over who last visited the dentist for a check-up decreased with age from 80% of 5–14 year olds to 53% of those aged 65 years and over.
  • More people with dental insurance last visited the dentist for a check-up (70%) than those without dental insurance (56%).
  • Fewer people whose annual household income was less than $30,000 last visited the dentist for a check-up (48%) than those whose annual household income was more than $30,000.
  • The proportion of dentate adults aged 15 years and over whose last visit was for a check-up increased from 48% in 1994 to 61% in 2013.

Practice type at last visit

In 2013, 84% of dentate people aged 5 years and over, who made a dental visit in the previous 12 months, last visited a private dental practice.

  • Around 1 in 5 (21%) children aged 5–14 last visited a school dental service, and around 2 in 3 (64%) last visited a private dental practice.
  • More people whose household income was less than $30,000 last visited a public dental service (30%) than those whose annual household income was more than $30,000.
  • More people with dental insurance last visited a private dental practice (93%) than those without dental insurance (71%).
  • The proportion of dentate children aged 5–14 year who last visited a school dental service more than halved over the period 1994 to 2013, from 54% to 21%.

Visiting patterns

In 2013, 44% of dentate people aged 18 years and over had a favourable dental visiting pattern.

  • More females (50%) aged 18 years and over had favourable dental visiting patterns than males (38%).
  • More dentate adults aged 18 years and over ineligible for public dental care (47%) had favourable dental visiting patterns than those eligible for public dental care (35%).
  • Around one-third (27%) of dentate adults aged 18 years and over without dental insurance had favourable dental visiting patterns, compared with almost two-thirds (61%) of those with dental insurance.
  • The proportion of dentate adults aged 18 years and over who had favourable dental visiting patterns increased from 36% in 1999 to 44% in 2013.

Explore the dental visiting data further in the three interactives:

Child Dental Benefits Schedule

The Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) commenced on 1 January 2014 and provides access to benefits for basic dental services to around 3 million eligible children (DoH 2018). Basic dental services include examinations, x-rays, cleaning, fissure sealing, fillings, root canals and extractions (DoH 2018). A child is eligible if they are aged between 2–17 years at any point in the calendar year, and receive a relevant Australian Government payment (DoH 2018). Eligible children have access to a benefit cap of $1,000 over a two calendar year period (DoH 2018). The payment of benefits under the CDBS is administered through the Department of Human Services (DoH 2018).

In 2017, the Australian Government paid benefits of $127,566,592 in respect of 2,393,380 preventive dental services across Australia, averaging $53.30 in benefits per service.

Explore the Child Dental Benefits Schedule data (DHS 2018) further here:

Public dental waiting times

The AIHW compiles, on an annual basis, data on waiting times for adults who were placed on selected public dental waiting lists to enable monitoring of those waiting times. These data requirements are defined in the Public Dental Waiting Times (PDWT) National Minimum Data Set (NMDS) specification.

In 2018, the AIHW reported data at a state and territory level for the first 4 years (2013–14 to 2016–17) of the data collection (AIHW 2018). However, due to concerns about the comparability of the data and availability of data for some jurisdictions, the report presents the data for each jurisdiction separately, with no national data tables or comparisons between jurisdictions. The data show that some people wait a considerable time before receiving care (or an offer of care). Data from this report, and additional data for 2017–18, are presented in Dental care interactive 7 below.

The report also examines the factors underlying the lack of comparability and availability of data (primarily related to the different organisation and administration of public dental waiting lists across jurisdictions) ahead of a planned redevelopment of the data set.

Explore the data using the Dental care interactive 7 below.

 

References