Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Oral health and dental care in Australia, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 27 November 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Oral health and dental care in Australia. Retrieved from https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/dental-oral-health/oral-health-and-dental-care-in-australia
Oral health and dental care in Australia. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 17 March 2022, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/dental-oral-health/oral-health-and-dental-care-in-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Oral health and dental care in Australia [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2022 Nov. 27]. Available from: https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/dental-oral-health/oral-health-and-dental-care-in-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Oral health and dental care in Australia, viewed 27 November 2022, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/dental-oral-health/oral-health-and-dental-care-in-australia
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Good oral health is fundamental to overall health and wellbeing (COAG 2015). Without it, a person’s general quality of life and the ability to eat, speak and socialise is compromised resulting in pain, discomfort and embarrassment.
Data on Australians’ oral health status and their use of dental services are limited as no comprehensive national data sources are available. The most complete information about Australians’ oral health status and their use of dental services is available via national population surveys.
Oral health refers to the condition of a person’s teeth and gums, as well as the health of the muscles and bones in their mouth. Poor oral health – mainly tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss – affects many Australian children and adults.
A key indicator of the oral health status of a population is the dental caries experience, that is, having a dmft (for the primary dentition) or DMFT (for the permanent dentition) score greater than zero. The dmft or DMFT score counts the number of teeth that are decayed, missing or filled because of caries. Refer to Key terms in Healthy teeth.
Untreated tooth decay reflects both the prevalence of dental decay in the population and access to dental care for treatment.
Average number of decayed, missing or filled teeth
Proportion with untreated decay
Children aged 5–10 years(a)
Children aged 6–14 years(b)
Adults aged 15 years and over(c)
(a) Data are for 2012–14 and reports caries experience in the primary dentition.
(b) Data are for 2012–14 and reports caries experience in the permanent dentition.
(c) Data are for 2017–18 and reports caries experience in the permanent dentition.
Sources: Ha et. al. 2016; Do and Luzzi 2019.
For more information on the oral health status of Australians refer to chapters on Healthy teeth and Healthy mouths.
Dental professionals provide preventive, diagnostic and restorative dental services. They can include dentists, dental prosthetists, dental hygienists, oral health therapists and dental therapists (Dental Board of Australia 2018). All dental professionals must be registered to practise in Australia. There were around 24,000 registered dental practitioners in Australia in 2019.
Dental services are funded, and can be accessed, in a number of ways – privately or through public dental clinics or the Department of Veterans Affairs (based on eligibility). For those who purchased services privately, some may have had all or part of the costs of the service subsidised. In 2020–21:
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.
The National Child Oral Health Study 2012–14 (Brennan et al. 2016) found that for children aged 5–14, it was estimated that:
The Patient Experience Survey 2020–21 (ABS 2021) found that for people aged 15 and over, it is estimated that:
For more information about dental visits refer to chapter on Dental care.
As well as visits to dental professionals, there were close to 67,000 hospitalisations for dental conditions that could have been prevented with earlier treatment in 2019–20. The rate of potentially preventable hospitalisations for dental conditions was highest in those aged 5–9 years (8.6 per 1,000 population). For more information refer to chapter on Hospitalisations.
In 2019–20, around $9.5 billion was spent on dental services in Australia. The majority of this cost (around $5.5 billion, or 58%) was paid by patients directly, with individuals spending on average $216 on dental services over the 12-month period, not including premiums paid for private health insurance (AIHW 2021). Private health insurance providers financed around $2.0 billion (20%) of total expenditure for dental services (AIHW 2021). For more information refer to chapter on Costs.
The Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has had an impact on both patients and dental professionals in terms of the number of services, type of services and the way in which services are delivered.
Early in the pandemic, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) issued advice to National Cabinet that recommended dental practices implement restrictions whereby dental professionals should only perform dental treatments that do not generate aerosols, or where treatment generating aerosols is limited and that all routine examinations and treatments should be deferred. These types of restrictions have been implemented and eased at various times over the course of the pandemic.
Events that may have impacted on service use over the period March 2020 to October 2021 across Australia, include:
In 2020–21, around 1 in 8 (12%) adults aged 15 years and over delayed seeing or did not see a dental professional at least once in the last 12 months due to COVID-19. For more information, refer to chapter on Patient experience.
For more information on the oral health status of Australians and their use of dental care services see:
Visit Dental & oral health for more on this topic.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (2020) Patient experiences in Australia: summary of findings, 2020-21, ABS website, accessed 22 February 2021.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2021) Health expenditure Australia 2019-20, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 31 January 2022.
APRA (Australian Prudential Regulation Authority) (2021) Private health insurance benefits trends, September 2021: ancillary benefits, APRA, accessed 31 January 2022.
Brennan DS, Ju X, Amarasena N, Dooland M, Peres KG, Mejia GC and Spencer AJ (2016) ‘Patterns of dental services use by Australian children’, in Do LG and Spencer AJ (eds) Oral health of Australian children: the National Child Oral Health Study 2012–14, University of Adelaide Press, Adelaide, accessed 31 January 2022.
COAG (Council of Australian Governments) Health Council (2015) Healthy mouths, healthy lives: Australia’s National Oral Health Plan 2015–2024, South Australian Dental Service, Adelaide.
Dental Board of Australia (2018) Registration, Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, Melbourne, accessed 2 February 2022.
Do L and Luzzi L (2019) ‘Oral health status’, in ARCPOH (eds) Australia’s oral health: National Study of Adult Oral Health 2017–18. University of Adelaide, Adelaide.
Ha DH, Roberts-Thomson KF, Arrow P, Peres KG and Do LG (2016) ‘Children’s oral health status in Australia, 2012–14’, in Do LG and Spencer AJ (eds) Oral health of Australian children: the National Child Oral Health Study 2012–14, University of Adelaide Press, Adelaide, accessed 31 January 2022.
Services Australia (2022) Medicare Australia statistics: Medicare group reports, Department of Human Services, Australian Government, accessed 14 February 2022.
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