Oral Health Research in Australia: Leaders & Innovators

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  4. Oral Health Research in Australia: Leaders & Innovators

Oral Health Research in Australia: Leaders & Innovators

  1. Home
  2. Dental Articles
  3. General Dentistry Articles
  4. Oral Health Research in Australia: Leaders & Innovators
Learning the intricate skills that change the way someone eats, speaks, and smiles improves their entire life. It is the privilege of dentistry. And only the finest, and most dedicated of students take it on.

A recent collaboration between the University of Adelaide and eviDent Foundation facilitates dental and cross-disciplinary treatments that can be swiftly interpreted and implemented for the specific needs of various communities. A key strength of eviDent Foundation is its ability to translate gathered data into the tangible, practical, and adaptable.

Considered Australia’s centre of excellence in oral health education and ranked 34th in the world, Adelaide Dental School has a proud 100-year history. It offers a comprehensive range of accredited, clinically focused undergraduate and postgraduate dentistry degrees, including Bachelor of Dental Surgery, Bachelor of Oral Health, and Doctor of Clinical Dentistry.

As the leading research-intensive dental school in the country, its well regarded track record attracts significant research grants, and its innovative and flexible learning approaches nurtures a competitive expertise that finds its way into white papers, articles and books.

This current research collaboration involved the cooperation of dentists and oral health practitioners in South Australia to address every-day practice issues so solutions ensuring patient confidence, and fewer delays could be found.

This leading study identified direct connections between oral health and overall wellbeing, with improved treatment outcomes already being established. Related cutting-edge technologies have been brought together with the paradigms of science, oral health care, and social and community systems, and it’s already proving ongoing benefits for individuals and families.

Based on practice observations, this information is also intended as stimulus for the university’s current dental curriculum to further improve its state-of-the-art programmes.

Future graduates will be the fortunate legatees of the university’s strong relationships supporting Australian communities, and the international dental industry at large.

What does it all mean for the future of dentistry?

By 2030, Australia’s population is set to exceed 30 million, with one-in-five aged over 60. University graduates will jump from 25 percent to 50; but wealth will be distributed much less equally.

Most Australians presume themselves middle-class, on average incomes but the reality is that wealth equality is far from balanced. The nation’s Gini coefficient – the global measure of income spread – is its highest ever: the wealthiest 20 percent of Australians own 71 times that of the neediest 20 per cent.

Dr Hugo Sachs, president of the Australian Dental Association, says that Australia graduates approximately 1200 new dentists each year, with only about 550 dentists retiring in that same period.

“There’s pretty stiff competition for jobs out there,” he says. “We have evidence of young graduates not obtaining full-time employment, or to gain full-time employment they need two or three jobs. With the oversupply of dentists in Australia you will see a push-down in wages and the reality is that makes it a more competitive market.”

One of the big opportunities for dental practices is retirement planning for teeth.

Someone in their mid-60s can expect to live into their 80s. Not only are there more people in that older age category, but research shows they’re more active in those later years. People are independent longer, dynamic as consumers, and moving into aged care support facilities later in life.

Crucially, the demand for later life dental care and cosmetic therapies will increase. Astute practices have started talking to their older patients about how they want their teeth to be, and are working with them to create workable clinical and financial future plans.

Despite Australia’s growing population, and even if dental practices are able to attract older clientele, an oversupply of dentists means many practices will continue simply surviving, and there will be no decrease in the competition for jobs that university graduates are already facing.

Along with an ageing population, Australia’s other oral health issue is the significant proportion not in the position to frequent private dental practices. While some manage to get into the public system, many are not seeing a dentist at all.

In the industry, this phenomenon is best illustrated using a model of thirds: a third of people have a regular check-up every two to three years; a third turn up purely for an immediate issue; and a third will never attend a dental clinic.
For those who only spontaneously present for dental care, and those who never go to the dentist encouraging regular appointments would assist struggling practices, but this growing wealth inequality will ultimately prohibit access to private dental care for many.

Cost of living pressures means patients with private health coverage exclusively attend practices where fees are fully covered by their insurer. The dental population is being segmented into a high-end, full-fee service for the wealthy, while the majority is forced to rely on an already stretched public dental system.

About 33 percent of Australians eligible for public dental services have restricted eating habits because of problems with their teeth; with 24 percent of them not having the requisite number of teeth for their mouth to function properly.
Adults with untreated tooth decay has also increased from 25.5 percent to 32.1 percent since 2018.

ADA deputy chief executive Eithne Irving said it was a reminder that the oral health of Australian adults was tracking in the wrong direction. “There have been calls for the Government to put oral health and the mouth back into the body, because a lot of people are missing out,” she said.

It is predicted in a 2020 report by The Foundation for Young Australians, that technology in 2030 will reduce many routine, manual tasks and mark an increase on focussed people skills.

Thankfully, many industry commentators agree that the future impact of technology indicates that the quality of service provided by a dentist will determine the success of their clinic. Added value won’t be extra services, but rather the way treatments are given and the degree of patient rapport.

Indeed, Dr Sachs states that dentists must keep up with changes in technology or risk falling victim to outdated skill sets. “The whole of dentistry is becoming revolutionised … a lot of the skills I have will be redundant in 20 years’ time when computerisation comes to the fore.”

Having adequate teeth is absolutely essential to being part of society, and too many Australians have difficulty accessing quality dental care.

We need to be doing more not less, in having good oral health as a right and not a privilege.


The content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. New Gisborne Dental House does not make any representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of the content.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional personal diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a dental or medical condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read or seen on the Site.

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