Social inequality in the use and comprehensiveness of dental services


*Department of Dentistry, University of Adelaide, SA 5005. Fax (08) 232 4062.


Abstract: Fair access is a value enshrined through universal insurance for health care in Australia. However, dentistry is not included in this system. As a consequence, there is a strong likelihood of inequalities in access to dental services among adults. Data from the 1989–90 National Health Survey were analysed to determine sociodemographic factors related to use and comprehensiveness of dental services. Age, income, age of leaving school and occupation were independently associated with the use of dental services, and occupation was associated with an indicator of comprehensiveness of care: self-reported extraction at the last visit. In different adult age groups these sociodemographic factors had different effects, with the disparities in use of dental services greater in older age groups. Planning of dental services in the 1990s and beyond should include not only the removal of financial barriers to dental services among adults but also attention to the specific barriers experienced by the elderly.