CANBERRA, Australia: According to the Oral Health and Dental Care in Australia: Key Facts and Figures Trends 2014 report, which was published at the beginning of this week, oral health and dental care overall have improved in Australia over the past decades. However, the report also suggests that some positive trends in this area have either plateaued or begun to move in a negative direction.

 

For instance, the report shows that the average number of teeth affected by dental caries in Australian adults decreased from 15 per cent in 1987–1988 to around 13 per cent in 2004–2006. The latest statistics demonstrate, however, that the proportion of people reporting any adverse oral health impact, including toothache, generally increased from 31.4 per cent in 1994 to 39.9 per cent in 2008.

Similarly, the average number of primary teeth affected by tooth decay decreased steadily in the period from 1977 to 1995. Yet, researchers have noted a gradual rise in this number again from 1996 onwards.

“In contrast to these negative trends in oral health, the trends in dental visiting patterns have generally been more positive,” said Dr Adrian Webster, spokesperson for the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The proportion of people aged 15 and over who had visited a dentist in the previous 12 months increased from 56 per cent in 1994 to 62 per cent in 2010.

“But despite this, the cost of dental care remains a barrier for some,” Webster stated. According to the National Dental Telephone Interview Survey, there was an increase in the proportion of adults avoiding visits to a dentist owing to cost, from about 25 per cent in 1994 to 30 per cent in 2010.

The report also showed that the number of employed dental practitioners increased from around 18,700 in 2011 to nearly 19,600 in 2012. Over this period, the ratio of dentists per 100,000 population rose from around 55 to 57 dentists.

The report, which was published on 18 August, can be accessed on the institute’s website.