Dental health in Australia

Australia’s oral health is often described as a crisis, yet part of the solution is to expand our ineffective and harmful  fluoridation program
"Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in childhood; over 90 per cent of adults have experienced dental caries.".
Australian Oral Health Tracker, March 2018
Australian Dental Association
42% of all children aged 5 to 10 have experienced tooth decay in their primary teeth; about 25% of children aged 6 to 14 have experienced decay in their permanent teeth (AIHW 2019)
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“Dentistry is in a state of crisis. Current dental care and public health responses have been largely inadequate, inequitable, and costly, leaving billions of people without access to even basic oral health care. While this breakdown in the delivery of oral healthcare is not the fault of individual dental clinicians committed to caring for their patients, a fundamentally different approach is required to effectively tackle to the global burden of oral diseases.”
Professor Richard Watt
Chair and Honorary Consultant in Dental Public Health at UCL
A snapshot

Around 90 per cent of Australia’s population receives reticulated fluoridated drinking water (RFDW). Australia is therefore one of the most fluoridated countries in the world. However our national oral health status is often described as a crisis, with decay rates worse than most non-fluoridating European countries (including those that do not use fluoridated salt1) and worse than our less-fluoridated neighbor New Zealand.

In March 2018, the Oral Health Tracker2 revealed that a massive 90 per cent of adults have experienced tooth decay. This compares to New Zealand where 46 per cent of the population receives RFDW and around 50 per cent has any form of tooth decay.

In March 2019, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reported that 42 per cent of all children aged 5 to 10 have experienced tooth decay in their primary teeth; about 25 per cent of children aged 6 to 14 have experienced decay in their permanent teeth; and that all Australians aged 15 and over have an average 12.8 decayed, missing of filled teeth – and that’s amongst 32 teeth in most adults.3 This means that of the 90 per cent of Australians with any form of decay, 40 per cent of teeth are decayed, missing or filled.

AIHW also revealed that in 2016-2017, there was a staggering 132,700 hospitalisations involving general anaesthesia for dental procedures.3 In NSW alone, the state’s hospitalisation data shows that tooth decay and other preventable dental problems resulted in 16,700 NSW adults and children in hospital in 2015-16.

The Oral Health Tracker2 also reported:

  • Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in childhood;
  • Oral diseases such as tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancer contribute to illness, disability and death in Australia;
  • Poor oral health in childhood is the strongest predictor of further dental disease in adulthood;
  • Despite the need, only 2.1% of government health spending is dedicated to dental services;
  • 70.3% of children aged 9 to 13 years are consuming too much sugar;
  • 73.1% of young people aged 14 to 18 years are consuming too much sugar;
  • The target for RFDW in 2025 is 94% of our population!
THE major cause of tooth decay in Australia is blatantly obvious…
The March 2018 Oral Health Tracker states that 70.3% of children aged 9 to 13 and 73.1% of young people aged 14 to 18 are consuming too much sugar.
Forced fluoridation – rates and dates
Percentage of population with access to fluoridated water as at August 2016 and dates of introduction of water fluoridation to Australian capital cities.
Four susceptible groups highlighted

In March 2019, AIHW’s National Oral Health Plan3 identified four priority population groups that have poorer oral health than the general population. These four susceptible population groups are:

People who are socially disadvantaged or on low incomes: This group has historically been identified as those on a low income and/or receiving some form of government income assistance, but now extends to include people experiencing other forms of disadvantage including refugees, homeless people, some people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and people in institutions or correctional facilities.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians: Indigenous Australians are more likely than other Australians to have multiple caries and untreated dental disease, and less likely to have received preventive dental care (AHMAC 2017). The oral health status of Indigenous Australians, like all Australians, is influenced by many factors and a tendency towards unfavourable dental visiting patterns, broadly associated with accessibility, cost and a lack of cultural awareness by some service providers.

People living in regional and remote areas: Overall, this group has poorer oral health than those in Major cities and oral health status generally declines as remoteness increases.

People with additional and/or specialised health care needs: This group includes people living with mental illness, people with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities, people with complex medical needs and frail older people. These people can be vulnerable to oral disease; for example, some medications for chronic diseases can cause a dry mouth, which increases the risk of tooth decay.

See more details here.

It is important to note that the above four disadvantaged groups are significantly more vulnerable to diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and mental health problems. Part of our government’s solution to rampant tooth decay is to ensure these groups receive RFDW, and yet these groups are also significantly more susceptible to adverse health effects of fluoridation. Many peer-reviewed studies also show that fluoride is a nephrotoxin and neurotoxin, so the idea of treating these subpopulation groups – or anyone for that matter – with fluoride, is not only ridiculous, it’s potentially negligent.

Fluoridation: another inconvenient truth
Around 90% of Australia's population receives fluoridated water and around 90% of our population has experienced any form of tooth decay. Around 46% of New Zealand's population receives fluoridated water and around 50% of their population has any form of tooth decay. But don't let that inconvenient statistic get in the way of an agenda!
The real problem

AIHW and the National Advisory Council on Dental Health (2012)4 state that the major contributors to poor oral health are:

  • consumption of sugar, tobacco and alcohol;
  • a lack of good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups;
  • a lack of fluoridation in some water supplies;
  • access and availability of services, including affordability of private dental care and long waiting periods for public dental care.

The major causes of poor dental health are in fact:

  1. Excess sugar consumption: this is by far the most influential contributing factor for tooth decay;
  2. An inferior total dietary profile, including too much junk and especially processed foods, and a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains.
  3. The consumption and use of alcohol and cigarettes (and illicit drugs);
  4. A lack of good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups.

The claim that a lack of fluoridation is a major contributor to poor oral health is completely erroneous. For more details, please read our article: Water fluoridation is not effective.

Reference notes:

  1. WHO data, DMFT for 12-year olds, 2012.
  2. Australia’s Adult Oral health Tracker, March 2018. Australian Dental Association. PDF report available
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Dental and Oral Health Report, March 2019. Available
  4. Report of the National Advisory Council on Dental Health; 23 February 2012; Department of Health. PDF available