Australia’s tooth decay epidemic

Tooth decay is a common and often silent condition that affects people of all ages. It occurs when bacteria in the mouth produce acids that erode the protective enamel on teeth, leading to cavities and other oral health problems. While tooth decay may seem like a minor issue, it can have serious consequences if left untreated. In this article, we’ll discuss the causes and consequences of tooth decay, as well as what you can do to prevent and treat this condition.

The state of tooth decay in Australia

According to the latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2023), tooth decay remains a significant problem in Australia. Here are the latest statistics and implications for oral health:

  • Approximately 89% of adults aged 15 and over have had tooth decay in their permanent teeth
  • On average, adults have 11.2 decayed, missing, or filled teeth
  • Approximately 42% of children aged 5-10 have had decay in their primary teeth
  • On average, children aged 5-10 years have 1.5 decayed, missing, or filled primary teeth

These statistics highlight the substantial number of people affected by tooth decay in Australia and emphasize the need for preventative dental care to reduce the incidence of this common dental issue.

Causes of tooth decay

Tooth decay is caused by a combination of factors, including:

  • Bacteria: The bacteria in our mouths produce acid when they consume our dietary sugars and carbohydrates, which can lead to the erosion of tooth enamel.
  • Sugar: Consuming sugary foods and beverages can provide fuel for the bacteria in our mouths, leading to increased acid production and tooth decay.
  • Acid: Acidic foods and beverages can also erode tooth enamel, making it more vulnerable to decay.

Over time, these factors can create small holes in the teeth, known as cavities. If left untreated, these cavities can grow larger and cause more serious oral health problems.

Consequences of tooth decay

If left untreated, tooth decay can have serious consequences, including:

  • Pain: Untreated cavities can cause pain and discomfort, making it difficult to eat, speak, and carry out daily activities.
  • Infection: Cavities that are left untreated can lead to infections in the tooth, gums, and jawbone, which can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Tooth loss: Advanced tooth decay can cause permanent damage to the tooth, leading to the need for extraction or other dental procedures.
  • Systemic health problems: Poor oral health has been linked to systemic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory infections.
  • Economic and social costs: Untreated tooth decay can lead to lost productivity, increased healthcare costs, and decreased quality of life.

By taking steps to prevent and treat tooth decay, individuals can reduce their risk of experiencing these consequences and maintain good oral and overall health.

Defeat tooth decay today

Tooth decay is a widespread and serious oral health issue that affects millions of people in Australia and around the world. However, it’s important to remember that tooth decay is preventable and treatable. By practising good oral hygiene habits, limiting your consumption of sugary and acidic foods and beverages, and scheduling regular dental checkups and cleanings, you can reduce your risk of developing cavities and other oral health problems. If you do develop a cavity, seek professional treatment promptly to prevent more serious problems from developing. By taking care of your oral health, you can help prevent tooth decay from becoming a silent epidemic in your own life.


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2023. Oral health and dental care in Australia: Healthy teeth. [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 11 June 2023).

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