Back To Listing

Reality bites: national tooth decay rate falling, but not for everyone

Source: Roy Morgan Research (Australia), July 2013-June 2014, n= 48,197. Base: Australians 14+

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?”

For comments or more information about Roy Morgan Research’s health data, please contact:

Angela Smith, Group Account Director – Consumer Products
Office: +61 (2) 9021 9101

Related research findings

View our extensive range of Health and Wellbeing profiles and reports, including our People with tooth decay profile, and other profiles of people with other dental health issues.

These profiles provide a broad understanding of the target market, in terms of their demographics, attitudes, activities and media usage in Australia.

About Roy Morgan Research

Roy Morgan Research is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices in each state of Australia, as well as in New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan Research has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate



25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%


























 Thumbnail image: copyright whologwhy (Flickr Creative Commons)