Sunday, May 20th, 2012 - The University of Adelaide
New research from the University of Adelaide shows that more than two-thirds of Australians who avoid going to the dentist do so because of cost.

The research results – now published in the Australian Dental Journal – place cost well ahead of fear, lack of time, lack of interest and other main reasons for avoiding the dentist's chair.

In a survey of more than 1000 Australians, researchers have found that cost is an even greater reason not to visit the dentist than previously thought.

"Our results show that just over two-thirds (67%) of people avoided going to the dentist or went to the dentist less often than they felt they needed to, for different reasons," says lead author Dr Jason Armfield, from the University of Adelaide's School of Dentistry and the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health.

"Nearly 68% of those who avoided or delayed their visits rated the expense of going to the dentist as a reason. That represents 45% of all study participants, which is a significant number. While multiple reasons are often given, cost of going to the dentist is cited more than twice as often as the next most commonly cited reasons.

"Although cost was an important reason for avoidance across all income groups, those people with lower incomes were more likely to cite cost as a reason for avoiding the dentist," Dr Armfield says.

A previous study – the National Survey of Adult Oral Health – had found that 30% of study participants avoided going to the dentist due to cost. However, Dr Armfield says: "That figure has significantly underestimated total avoidance due to cost because it restricted the relevant time period to only the previous 12 months."

In this new study, people who avoid going to the dentist gave other reasons for doing so, such as:

• just not getting around to it (32%);
• lack of time (30%);
• not liking the dentist (18%);
• dental anxiety and fear (18%);
• inconvenience of getting to the dentist (8.5%).

More than one half of surveyed adults provided two or more reasons for avoiding or delaying going to the dentist, while one in five adults gave three or more reasons.

Although men and women don't differ overall in dental avoidance, women are more likely to avoid the dentist because they don't like dentists, while men are more likely to avoid going because of indifference.

Dr Armfield says the findings of this latest study are concerning. "The results indicate that numerous barriers, real or perceived, must be overcome in order to meet unmet dental health needs," he says.

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