Tracker shows poor oral health worsened by COVID-19

There is an increasing prevalence of tooth decay and gum disease among Australian adults.

The trend is worsened by the current pandemic, with people avoiding the dentist due to fears of proximity with others; job losses resulting in people spending less on their health; and the consumption of more confectionery as people are homebound.

Figures show Australian adults are keeping their teeth for longer – but that one in three of is walking around with untreated tooth decay, while one in four has periodontal disease with periodontal pockets 4mm or deeper.

These are just some of the statistics from the Adult Oral Health Tracker progress report to be re-released for Dental Health Week from 3-9 August 2020. This forms part of the Australian Dental Association’s annual oral health campaign.

The Tracker, which sets targets for a reduction in the prevalence of these oral conditions as well as 12 other risk factors, is produced by the Australian Dental Association in collaboration with the Mitchell Institute.

Oral Health Tracker 2020 findings 

  • The number of adults with untreated and potentially painful tooth decay has increased sizeably from a quarter of adults to around a third of adults (25.5 per cent to 32.1 per cent);
  • Adults with periodontal pockets (≥4mm) which can cause tooth loss, went from 19.8 per cent to 28.8 per cent;
  • Adults reporting toothache in the previous 12 months went up from 16.2 per cent  to 20.2 per cent;
  • Just under half (48.8 per cent) of adults surveyed had visited a dentist for a check-up in the last 12 months, a drop of 6.7 per cent since 2018;
  • Only 53 per cent of us are brushing twice a day;
  • Australians are keeping their teeth for longer, with the number of adults with fewer than 21 teeth dropping from 15.5 per cent to 10.2 per cent; and
  • Rates of adult oral cancers have remained almost static at 10.3 people per 100,000.

For further information on tracker click here.