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In January 2018, the Online Research Unit of The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne conducted a national survey of 2,073 parents or caregivers. The randomly selected survey group reflected Australian population figures, with data collected from 3,992 children including infants, toddlers, preschoolers, primary school-aged children and teenagers. The RCH report – published on 7 March, 2018 – revealed a dismal state of affairs regarding the oral health, habits and care of Australian kids, with many doctors and dentists shocked by the results. The survey addressed the following six key areas in relation to the oral health and dental habits of Aussie kids. We have included the key findings of the survey within each area.
  1. Dental visits
    1. The Australian Dental Association (ADA) recommends that all children visit a dentist by age one. 77% of parents were not aware of this recommendation and 83% of all children had not visited a dentist by age two. 33% of preschoolers (aged 3 -5) had never seen a dentist.
    2. The ADA recommends that children should visit a dentist once or twice a year. 22% of primary school kids and 25% of teens had not seen a dentist in the past year.
  2. Oral care
    1. The ADA recommends that all children brush their teeth twice a day. 33% of all children did not clean their teeth twice daily. 28% of parents believed that brushing once a day was adequate.
    2. The ADA recommends that parents supervise and assist children aged 8 and under to brush their teeth correctly. 25% of parents rarely or never assisted their child.
  3. Dietary risks: Food and drinks
    1. Consumption of sugary drinks affects oral health. 25% of parents believed that tooth decay is inherited and is not affected by tooth brushing and diet. Over 50% of children consumed sugary drinks regularly.
    2. 23% of children aged 5 years and under fell asleep drinking from a bottle containing a sugary drink on most days. 50% of parents knew tap water is better for oral health than bottled water.
  4. Oral disease and tooth decay
    1. In the past year, 25% of all children had received a filling for decay or cavities; 19% of preadolescents had experienced toothache; 10% had a tooth extraction due to cavities or decay; 8% were hospitalised or sedated for a dental procedure; and 16% of parents believed that tooth decay was harmless to young children.
  5. Dental emergencies
    1. 58% of parents did not know how to administer first aid for knocked out teeth.
    2. 35% of oral injuries occurred during sports, and 49% of those children wore a mouthguard.
  6. Accessing the Children Dental Benefit Scheme (CDBS) that provides a $1000 benefit for child dental services
    1. 32% of parents were not sure if their child was eligible for the CDBS.
    2. 49% of parents were not aware of the CDBS or any other free or government funded dental benefits.
    3. 76% of preschoolers did not access the CDBS or any other free government funded dental services.
    4. 53% of school-aged children did not access the CDBS or any other free government dental services.

What are the implications?

According to the report, tooth decay during childhood is the strongest indicator of poor oral health outcomes in adults. Health professionals, educators and policy makers will need to play a more active role to help educate and guide Australian parents and kids on the correct path towards good oral health. Parents and caregivers also need to ensure that their children develop good oral care habits, access regular dental checkups, and utilise the free child dental benefits provided by the Australian Government if they are eligible.


Rhodes, A. (2018). Child oral health: Habits in Australian homes. Retrieved from The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne website: