Income and location determine oral health quality

CANBERRA, Australia: According to the latest information published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), people living in remote areas and with lower household income have poorer oral health compared with other Australians. The national agency reported that dental health and dental visiting patterns are affected by remoteness and socio-economic status.

AIHW’s figures show that about 38 per cent of people living in remote or very remote areas have untreated tooth decay, but this is the case for only 24 per cent of people living in major cities in Australia. According to AIHW spokesperson Dr Adrian Webster, the average number of decayed, missing or filled permanent teeth (DMFT) was 14.75 in inner regional areas of the country.

In addition, the numbers indicate that more adults in major cities (49 per cent) visit a dentist once a year, compared with people living in remote or very remote areas (31 per cent).

Access to dental health care is a major problem in Australia. While almost 80 percent of all employed dentists work in major cities, only 0.9 per cent are settled in remote areas.

With regard to wealth, Webster noted that visiting patterns also varied by household income. “Under one-third (28 per cent) of adults in the lowest income group had visited a dentist for a check-up in the last 12 months, compared with over half of those in the highest income group (56 per cent).” About one-third of the lower income group had not visited the dentist at all in the past two years (34 per cent), compared with less than one-fifth (16 per cent) of the higher income group, he said.

People in higher income households (A$ 100,000 or more per year) also had lower rates of untreated decay, as well as fewer missing teeth and went to the dentist more often, compared with those in lower income households (less than A$ 12,000 per year).