From 1994 to 2005 around 4 in 5 children visited a dentist within the previous 12 months. Children aged 5–11 were slightly more likely to visit than children aged 12–17. Non-cardholders and insured children were more likely to have visited within the previous 12 months as were children who usually visit for a check-up rather than problem-oriented visitors, although few of these differences were statistically significant.
Prior to 2005 children aged 12–17 years were significantly more likely than younger children to have attended a private practice at their most recent dental visit. The percentage of adolescents who visited privately remained fairly constant from 1994 to 2005 at approximately 55%. In contrast, there was a sharp increase in the percentage of 5–11 year olds who attended a private practice between 2002 (40%) and 2005 (53%) reflecting a decline in the use of the School Dental Service.
Visiting for a check-up, rather than problem-oriented visiting, increased between1996 and 2005 across both age groups and population sub-groups, peaking in 2005 at 78% for 5–11 year old children and 81% for 12–17 year olds. During the period 1994 to 2005 approximately 8% of children aged 5–11 years who made a dental visit within the previous 12 months received an extraction. Children who usually visited the dentist for a problem were more than twice as likely to have received an extraction as those who usually visited for a check-up. In recent years adolescents who usually visited for a problem were also more than twice as likely to have received an extraction. Visiting for a problem was also associated with a higher rate of fillings across both age groups.
From 1994 to 2002 the percentage of children aged 5–11 years who received a professional scale and clean within the previous 12 months fluctuated between 40% and 50%. However from 2002 to 2005 prevalence of this preventive treatment declined significantly from 47% to 34%. This decline was particularly evident among uninsured children, children living in rural and remote areas and non-cardholders. A similar significant decline was seen amongst older children.
The percentage of children who reported that they had avoided or delayed visiting a dentist within the previous 12 months due to cost declined between 1994 and 2005. For children aged 5–11 years the proportion almost halved from 13% to 7%, and for adolescents the decline was from 16% to 10%. Differences among sociodemographic groups were small although children who usually visited the dentist for a problem were significantly more likely to report avoiding or delaying dental care due to the cost. Adolescents were more likely to report that cost had prevented recommended dental treatment than younger children. Since 2002 uninsured adolescents were more than three times as likely as insured adolescents to report that cost had prevented recommended treatment. For younger children differences by insurance status were smaller and not statistically significant. In 2005 both adolescents and younger children who visited for a problem were significantly more likely to report that cost had prevented recommended dental treatment than those who usually visited for a check-up.
Professor of Social and Preventive Dentistry
Director, Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health
ISBN 978 1 74024 922 5
AIHW Cat. No. DEN 198