Report: A third of Australians avoid dentist due to cost

One third of Australians avoid or delay visits to the dentist due to the cost, an increase from about a quarter in 1994, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). The report, "Trends in access to dental care among Australian adults 1994-2008," uses information collected in the National Dental Telephone Interview Survey to examine trends in Australians visiting the dentist.

"Women, concession card holders, uninsured people, and those who usually visited for a problem rather than a checkup were more likely to avoid or delay dental visits," said Dr. Jane Harford of the AIHW's Dental Statistics and Research Unit. Concession cards help Australian seniors, low-income earners, and certain disadvantaged groups pay for medical care.

The report contained a silver lining. More people reported they had visited the dentist in the 12 months before the survey: up from 55% to 59% between 1994 and 2008. More adults visited for a checkup rather than a problem at their most recent dental visit as well: up from 42% to 56% between 1996 and 2008.

"Despite this, not all Australians experienced this improvement, with notable differences among population groups," Dr. Harford said. "Holders of Commonwealth concession cards, those who live in rural areas, and those without dental insurance did not have the same gains in 'visiting a dentist regularly' or in 'usually visiting for a checkup' compared to higher income earners, urban dwellers, and those with dental insurance."

Half of Australians had dental insurance by 2008, following a period between 1994 and 2002 in which insurance coverage fluctuated between 36% and 46%. Middle-aged and older Australians were more likely to have dental insurance, with insurance coverage highest in the 45- to 64-year-old age group.

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