Recent data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that 1 in 2 12-year-old children has tooth decay in their permanent (adult) teeth, and more than half of 6-year-old children have tooth decay in their deciduous (baby) teeth.

There has been a 61% increase in tooth decay experience in 12-year-old children from 1998 to 2010, and a 78% increase for 6-year-old children from 1996 to 2010.  The prevalence of tooth decay shows a strong social gradient, being significantly more concentrated in disadvantaged communities. In fact, 10% of 12-year-old children have 5 or more adult teeth affected by tooth decay, and 10% of 6-year-old children have 10 or more deciduous (baby) teeth affected by tooth decay.

Despite a large increase in the oral health workforce over the past 10 years, the dental profession is struggling to manage this growing burden of dental disease.  In 2013-14, there were 63,910 hospitalisations due to dental causes in Australia, second only to urinary tract infections and accounting for 10.6 per cent of all preventable hospitalisations. These hospital admissions for potentially preventable dental conditions place a further significant drain on the public hospital system.

Dental expenditure through the Child Dental Benefits Scheme for tooth extractions has increased from $7.6 million in 2013/14 to $20.5 million in 2014/15, and for restorative services (fillings) the increase has been from $39.1 million to $96.1 million over the same period.