A national oral health report card reveals that more than 90% of Australian adults have experienced decay in their permanent teeth.
Australia’s Oral Health Tracker was released this month by the Australian Dental Association (ADA) and the Australian Health Policy Collaboration (AHPC) at Victoria University. Part of Australia’s Health Tracker series, the report establishes vital links between oral health and general overall health.
According to the Oral Health Tracker:
Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in Australia.
Three out of four children and young people are consuming too much sugar.
Only 51% of Australian adults brush their teeth the recommended twice a day.
About one in six adults have experienced toothache in the last 12 months.
ADA Federal President Dr Hugo Sachs says the evidence shows that one-third of Australia’s five to six year-olds have had decay in their baby teeth. “This is an unacceptably high rate and puts these children at risk of poor oral health in their development and adult years,” Dr Sachs says.
Professor Rosemary Calder, Director of the AHPC, says there were nearly 70,000 “potentially preventable hospitalisations” for oral health problems in 2015-16. Almost one-third of these were children under the age of nine years. “Worryingly,” she adds, “there’s a growing number of children in this age group who are being admitted to hospital for dental health reasons.”
Professor Calder says one in ten preventable hospital admissions are due to dental conditions, mostly untreated tooth decay. A major impact on oral health comes from too much sugar, regular drinking and smoking.
However, these causes are also linked to preventable chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. That means the problem often does not stop with children's teeth, but has serious effects on the lives of adults.
Despite this, only 2.1% of government health spending is dedicated to dental services, according to the report card.
“Australia needs to recognise that oral health care is part of good health care, and that access to dental care is a significant contributor to good oral and physical health,” says Dr Sachs.
The Oral Health Tracker sets a target of a 10% reduction in the proportion of children needing hospital care because of their dental health by the year 2025.
Australia’s Oral Health Tracker report cards are available at www.ada.org.au/oralhealthtracker.