Most dental expenses out of pocket

Dental pain: half in your teeth, half in your wallet.
Dental pain: half in your teeth, half in your wallet.

Individuals contributed 58 per cent of the $7.9 billion spent on dental services in Australia in 2010-11, according to a report released yesterday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Oral health and dental care in Australia: key facts and figures 2012, shows that the $7.9 billion spent on dental services in 2010-11 was 2 per cent more than the previous year.

The report shows that in 2010, 64 per cent of people aged 5 and over had visited a dentist in the previous year. This ranged from 78 per cent of children aged 5-14 to 57 per cent of adults aged 25-44.

Noting that just over half of all people aged 5 and over had some level of private dental cover in 2010, most adults with some level of dental insurance made co-contributions towards the cost of dental visits, said AIHW spokesperson Professor Kaye Roberts-Thomson.

“Nearly 1 in 10 insured adults paid all their own expenses, and of these about 17 per cent reported that this caused a large financial burden,” she said.

The report provides an omnibus ‘snapshot’ of the state of Australian’s oral health. Some interesting statistics show:

  • In 2010, about 15 per cent of adults reported experiencing toothache in the previous 12 months, and 25 per cent reported feeling uncomfortable about their dental appearance.
  • About 21 per cent of adults aged 65 and over had no natural teeth, and this was slightly higher among women.
  • In 2009, the proportion of children who had experienced decay in their baby teeth ranged from 42 per cent for 5 year olds to 61 per cent for 9 year olds. This was similar to the proportions in 2006, which ranged from 40 per cent for 5 years olds to 62 per cent for 8 year olds.
  • The proportion of children with permanent teeth affected by decay ranged from 5 per cent for 6 year olds to 58 per cent for 14 year olds. Using the same ages, in 2006 these figures ranged from 9.9 per cent in 6 year olds to 54 per cent in 14 year olds.
  • Adults living in remote and very remote areas had higher rates of untreated decay than those in major cities-38 per cent compared with 24 per cent in 2004-2006.

A second report, also released yesterday, The dental health of Australia’s children by remoteness: Child Dental Health Survey Australia 2009, presents similar results for children living in remote and very remote areas.

“This report describes the state of dental health of Australian children examined by school dental service staff in 2009,” Professor Roberts-Thomson said.

“It shows the mean number of decayed, missing or filled permanent teeth at age 6 and 12 were higher among children in remote and very remote areas than among children in major cities.”

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