Dental insurance makes prevention more likely

Dental insurance
This is a more likely scenario if he has dental insurance.

Australians are significantly more likely to visit a dentist—particularly for check-ups and preventive care services—if they have dental insurance, according to a report released this week by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Insurance and use of dental services: National Dental Telephone Interview Survey 2010, shows a higher proportion of Australian adults with dental insurance had made a dental visit in the last 12 months (70.9 per cent) than those who did not have insurance (48.3 per cent).

The use of preventive care services was also more common among people with dental insurance.

“A greater proportion of adults who had dental insurance visited for a check-up than those who did not have insurance,” said AIHW spokesperson Associate Professor David Brennan.

“And a higher proportion of adults with insurance had scale and clean services in the previous 12 months than those without insurance.”

While people with insurance tended to seek services oriented to prevention of problems and retention of natural teeth, people without insurance required treatment for dental problems.

A higher proportion of adults without insurance (43.9 per cent) had fillings than those with insurance (37.2 per cent), and extractions were more common among those without insurance (19 per cent compared to 10.4 per cent). A lower proportion of those with insurance received dentures (3.2 per cent) than those without insurance (6.3 per cent).

Adults who visited the dentist in the last 12 months made 2.3 dental visits on average, and this did not vary between people with and without insurance.

“This suggests that while insurance reduces costs of dental care, it does not lead to unreasonable use of dental services,” Associate Professor Brennan said.

Among people with dental insurance, dental visit and treatment patterns were similar for those who were Australian Government concession cardholders and non-cardholders.

Among people who were cardholders, dental visit and treatment patterns varied depending on whether the cardholder was also insured.

“Cardholders are entitled to free or subsidised dental care provided by state and territory governments,” Associate Professor Brennan said.

“But even with this entitlement, cardholders without insurance were far less likely to visit the dentist for a check-up than cardholders with insurance.”


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