Health card holders are a financially disadvantaged group, and are the target population eligible for public-funded dental care. The aims of this study were to compare changes in caries experience among public-funded dental patients over time. Patients were sampled randomly by State/Territory dental services in 1995-96 (n=6,109) and 2001-02 (n=5,196). Dentists recorded oral health measures at the initial visit of a course of care. Sample data were weighted in proportion to the numbers of public-funded dental patients for each State/Territory. Multiple linear regression analysis controlling for patient age, sex, visit type (emergency/general) and location (urban/rural) indicated (P<0.05) that caries experience measured by the DMFT index increased between 1995-96 and 2001-02 (Beta=0.34), reflecting increased decayed (D) teeth (Beta=0.78) but lower filled (F) teeth (Beta=-0.54). Significant variation was observed by age in each model with younger patients aged 15-24 years showing higher D (Beta=2.12) but lower missing (M) teeth (Beta=-9.38), F (Beta=-3.73) and DMF (Beta=-10.99) compared to the reference of 65+-year-olds. Male patients had higher D (Beta=0.74) but lower F (Beta=-1.11) and DMF (Beta=-0.39). Emergency care was associated with higher D (Beta=0.56), M (Beta=0.80) and DMF (Beta=0.33) but lower F (Beta=-1.04). Urban patients had lower D (Beta=-0.39), M (Beta=-0.93) and DMF (Beta=-0.99) but higher F (Beta=0.33). The findings document a decline in the oral health status of public dental patients, with increased levels of untreated decayed teeth over time, and significant variation in oral health among public patients. Assisted by State/Territory dental health authorities and the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing.
DS Brennan*, AJ Spencer
Presented at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the IADR (ANZ Division), 28 September – 1 October 2003, Melbourne, Australia
Note: * indicates presenter