6 out of 10 adults visited a dentist in 12 months prior to survey

While nearly 60% of adult Australians visited the dentist in the year before a national dental survey was conducted, one in three say they avoid or delay dental visits because of the cost, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Among dentate adults (those with at least one or more natural teeth) who visited in the previous 12 months, about 56% went for a dental check-up and 44% for a dental problem at their most recent visit.

Only one in five who made a dental visit in the previous year said that cost prevented them undergoing recommended treatment.

The report, Oral health and use of dental services: Findings from the National Dental Telephone Interview Survey 2008, is based on interviews with a random sample of 6,600 Australian adults.

AIHW spokesperson Dr Jane Harford said the report findings showed that affordability of dental care was a prominent factor for those Australians who didn’t make a dental visit.

Dentate adults with affordability difficulties were less likely to have visited a dentist in the past 12 months.

‘These adults were also more likely to visit for a dental problem than a check-up, and were more likely to require treatment, especially extraction of teeth,’ Dr Harford said.

Australians with a Commonwealth Concession card were more likely than non-cardholders to have avoided or delayed visiting a dentist because of cost, to have cost prevent them from having recommended treatment, and to have had a lot of difficulty in paying a $150 dental bill.

Although cardholders are eligible for public-funded dental care, only 25% of cardholders visited a public dental clinic at their last visit.

‘On average, 25% of those who visited a public clinic waited between 1 and 2 years for their appointment, and 32% waited more than 2 years,’ Dr Harford said.

Cardholders had twice as many missing teeth as non-cardholders and were more likely to experience toothache, be uncomfortable with the appearance of their mouth and avoid some foods because of oral problems.

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.

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