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Quality of oral health is worse for people outside of capital cities

03 March, 2009

Oral health among people who live in non-capital-city areas is poorer than capital-city dwellers, according to a report released recently by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

'People from outside capital cities don't have the same access to dental care and preventive dental programs as residents of capital cities,' said Judy Stewart of the AIHW's Dental Statistics and Research Unit.

'As a consequence, tooth loss, poorer oral health and unfavourable dental visiting patterns were all more prevalent among those living outside of capital cities,' she said.

The report, Geographic variation in oral health and use of dental services in the Australian population 2004-06, showed that people living in non-capital-city areas were less likely to visit the dentist for check-ups, less likely to make an annual dental visit, and less likely to have a particular dentist that they usually visit.

Those who had visited a dentist in the previous 12 months were more likely to have had one or more teeth extracted and less likely to have received a professional clean.

Inadequate natural dentition (having less than 21 teeth) was more prevalent among non-capital-city residents, particularly in the 55-74 years age group.

'People with fewer than 21 remaining teeth have been shown to be more likely to suffer impaired quality of life related to oral health compared to adults with more teeth,' Stewart said.

Overall, people who lived in areas outside capital cities had almost double the prevalence of complete tooth loss as capital-city dwellers (9% compared with 5%), with the difference evident in all age groups.

Untreated decay was also more prevalent among residents of non-capital-city areas than capital-city dwellers (33% compared with 22%).

The difference was greatest in the 15-34 years age group, where 37% of non-capital-city residents had decayed teeth compared with 20% of capital city dwellers, almost a two-fold difference.

'Dental visiting behaviour is closely associated with oral health outcomes, and people who visit regularly for a check-up generally have less invasive treatments than people who go to the dentist only when they have a problem,' Stewart said.

There was considerable variation in the proportion of people who visited the dentist for a check up - 48% of residents of non-capital city areas compared with 61% of capital-city dwellers usually visit the dentist for check-ups.

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