Between July 2009 and June 2014, the proportion of Australians 14+ with tooth decay decreased from 19% to 14%. While this suggests that we’re taking better care of our teeth than we were five years ago, the fact remains that 14% of the population (or 2.8 million people) have tooth decay — and almost half of them are from the lowest two socioeconomic quintiles.
According to the latest findings from Roy Morgan Research, 17% of Australians from the E quintile and 16% from the FG quintile reported having tooth decay as of June 2014. Incidence among the wealthier AB and C quintiles was noticeably lower (11% and 14% respectively), while those from the D quintile sat in between (15%).
Incidence of tooth decay by socio-economic quintile
Source: Roy Morgan Research (Australia), July 2013-June 2014, n= 48,197
The troublesome trio: soft drink, ciggies and fast food
Of course, lifestyle choices also play a part in whether someone will develop tooth decay.
Soft drink consumption is one such choice — and not surprisingly, the more a person drinks, the higher their risk of decay becomes. While 16% of Australians 14+ who consumed at least one soft drink in an average seven days have tooth decay; this figure rises to 20% of those who consumed 8-14 soft drinks and 22% of those who drank 15 or more.
Smokers face an even higher risk than heavy soft-drink consumers: in the year to June 2014, 23% of Australian smokers aged 18+ had tooth decay.
Furthermore, the data shows that 16% of people who went to a fast food restaurant between five and nine times in an average four weeks had tooth decay; which rose to 19% among people who paid 10 or more fast-food visits.
Adding a geographical dimension to the equation, residents of country Australia (17%) are more likely than those living in capital cities (13%) to have tooth decay.
Angela Smith, Group Account Director – Consumer Products, Roy Morgan Research, says:
“It’s no secret that wealthier Australians tend to be conscious of and educated about their health – not to mention well-placed to afford the necessary upkeep such as regular trips to the dentist.
“Australians on low incomes or living in rural areas (or both) tend to be less health-conscious, and/or less able to afford treatment for issues such as tooth decay — after all, dentists aren’t covered by Medicare.
“Roy Morgan Research’s in-depth profiling tool Helix Personas pinpoints those groups of Australians most and least likely to have tooth decay, telling us where they live, how much they earn and what their habits are. For example, 23% of Coupon Clippers have tooth decay, well above the national average. Often unemployed and scraping by on minimal income in fringe suburbs or regional centres, Coupon Clippers are far likelier than the average Aussie to be smokers and would generally put any extra money towards their rent rather than the dentist.
“In contrast, just 8% of individuals belonging to the Worldly & Wise persona have tooth decay. Well-off, inner-suburban and typically middle-aged or older, Worldly & Wise like to squeeze every last drop out of life, and consider maintaining their health as an integral part of this. After all, who wants their overseas holiday ruined by a pesky toothache?”
Roy Morgan Research
Roy Morgan Research is Australia's best known and longest established market research and public opinion survey company. Roy Morgan Single Source is thorough, accurate, and provides comprehensive, directly applicable information about current and future customers. It is unique in that it directs all the questions to each individual from a base survey sample of around 55,000 interviews in Australia and 15,000 interviews in New Zealand annually - the largest Single Source databases in the world. The questions asked relate to lifestyle and attitudes, media consumption habits (including TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, cinema, catalogues, pay TV and the Internet), brand and product usage, purchase intentions, retail visitations, service provider preferences, financial information and recreation and leisure activities. This lead product is supported by a nationally networked, consultancy-orientated market research capability.
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