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Nothing to smile about – Alarming new research reveals Aussies are neglecting oral hygiene

Reviewed by expert, Chris Ford
4 min read
29 Apr 2024
woman at the dentist on oral health day

Dental drills, tooth decay, overbites, halitosis, and dentures—these words are enough to make your skin crawl, but alarmingly, new research from Compare the Market reveals that a staggering number of Australians aren’t seeing their dentist regularly.

In fact, the latest statistics reveal that 30.8% of Australian adults surveyed haven’t seen their dentist in more than a year.*

But Queensland has been crowned Australia’s poor dental hygiene capital, with 34.3% of those from the Sunshine State admitting that they’ve let more than a year lapse since their last visit to the dentist. Alarmingly, 11.6% of Queensland respondents said it’s been more than five years since their last dental visit – above the national average of 9.3%.

Conversely, it’s South Australians who have an excuse to flash their pearly whites, with 74.6% of adults surveyed sitting in the dreaded dental chair in the past 12 months. South Australia was slightly ahead of New South Wales (71.5%), Victoria (68.9%) and Western Australia (68%).

Compare the Market’s Chris Ford said a number of factors could be preventing Australians from prioritising their dental health.

“The thought of a drill going off in a dental office is enough to send shivers up your spine, and unfortunately, we know that fear is a major factor preventing Australians from staying on top of their dental check-ups,” Mr Ford said. “However, the longer you leave a potential problem, the more work it could take to fix the issue down the track.

“We also know that cost is a potential barrier preventing Australians from visiting the dentist. Medicare contributes to many health treatments, but it rarely covers dental services. We’re not out of the woods just yet when it comes to the cost-of-living crisis and with many Australians trying to keep their head above water, these types of appointments and health check-ups are often sacrificed.”

While most generations had an almost equal rate of dental attendance over the past 12 months, Gen X was the least likely to have seen their dentist. At a rate of 61.8%, it’s around 10% lower than Gen Z (71.3%), Millennials (71.5%) and Baby Boomers (71.1%).

Mr Ford said that millions of Australians currently have health insurance, which could help ease dental costs.

“If you have extras health insurance, it may help cover the costs of basic dental treatments like oral exams, fillings, tooth extractions and more,” Mr Ford said. “Of course, every policy is different, so it’s important you check your documents for what is or isn’t covered. And be aware that if you plan on claiming on your insurance, you’ll need to have served your applicable waiting periods.

“The higher levels of extras cover may also offer coverage for big-ticket treatments like dentures, crowns, bridges, wisdom teeth removal and more complex fillings, endodontic treatments like root canal therapy and even orthodontic treatment like braces or Invisalign.”

Mr Ford’s tips for lowering your dental costs:

  1. Understand what your dentist charges for treatments. Dentists can and do set their own prices, so if in doubt, get quotes before you book your appointment.
  2. While they are rare, dental plans through Medicare are available to some Australians (typically those holding pension concession or healthcare cards). However, it’s worth noting that you’re usually put on a waitlist, which could be lengthy if you need urgent care.
  3. Ensure you’ve served any waiting periods if you plan on claiming on your health insurance. Some health funds will waive general dental waiting periods as part of a promotion, but these may not cover complex issues.
  4. Understand that extras policies can have limits, which can impact how much you can claim on dental procedures. For example, there could be limits to how much you claim annually, group limits, sub-limits, service limits and more.

*Survey of 1,010 Australian adults, conducted in March 2024.

For more information, please contact:  

Phillip Portman | 0437 384 471 | [email protected]

Compare the Market is a comparison service that takes the hard work out of shopping around. We make it Simples for Australians to quickly and easily compare and buy insurance, energy, and home loans products from a range of providers. Our easy-to-use comparison tool helps you look for a range of products that may suit your needs and benefit your back pocket.

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avatar of author: Phillip Portman

Written by Phillip Portman

When he’s not busy writing, Phillip can usually be found at the movies, playing with his Italian Greyhound Wilma, hanging out with his cockatiel Tiki, or talking about everything pop culture. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Journalism and has previously written about health, entertainment, and lifestyle for various publications. Phillip loves to help others and hopes that people learn something new from his articles.

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