This article by Natasha Rudra was recently published in The Canberra Times - Australian Capital Territory, Australia.
Four out of five Australian children visit the dentist regularly but one-third of young children have fillings in their teeth, a new health report says.
The research also found the proportion of children who cannot afford to see a dentist has dropped.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare will publish the report, Trends in Access to Dental Care among Australian Children, today.
Researchers surveyed more than 45,000 adults and children between 1994 and 2005 about access to and the cost of dental care.
They found the percentage of children who visited the dentist every year for a check-up increased between 1996 and 2005.
In 2005, 78 per cent of under-12s and 81 per cent of adolescents went to the dentist for a routine check rather than to fix a problem.
But children from families without private dental insurance were more likely to visit the dentist only if they had a problem.
When children did visit the dentist and needed treatment, they were most likely to have a filling.
About 30 per cent of children aged five to 11 and a quarter of 12 to 17-year-olds had a filling.
About 8 per cent of children in the younger age group had had a tooth pulled by a dentist.
But there was a sharp drop in the percentage of children who had had their teeth professionally scaled and cleaned.
Only 52 per cent of children aged 12 to 17 years received a scale and clean in 2005, down from 65 per cent in 1994.
Among five to 11-year-olds, the figure was only 34 per cent in 2005, down from nearly 50 per cent.
Institute researcher Professor John Spencer said that between 2002 and 2005 there was a sharp rise in the number of younger children who saw a private dentist.
Professor Spencer said 53 per cent of children aged five to 11 saw a private-practice dentist in 2005, up from 40 per cent in 2002.
The change reflected a decline in the use of the state and territory-run School Dental Service.
But the school schemes helped children who were least able to afford dental care.
NobleDentist offers low dental fees guaranteed for members at dentists, cosmetic dentists, and dental clinics throughout Australia. NobleDentist also provides a directory of dentists and dental clinics around Australia. For more information, visit