AAP FactCheck

Restoring confidence in public statements by independently testing and verifying the facts

Do one in five senior Australians have none of their own teeth and does one in two suffer from moderate to severe gum disease?

By James Lane and Louise Evans

The Statement

“We know that older Australians, one in five older Australians, have no natural teeth, and one in two suffer from gum disease - moderate to severe.”

Labor health spokesperson Catherine King. April 28, 2019.

The Analysis

AAP FactCheck examined the claims by Labor health spokesperson Catherine King that one in five senior Australians have none of their own teeth and one in two suffers from moderate to severe gum disease. [1]

Ms King was touting Labor’s $2.4 billion Pensioner Dental Plan which targets senior voters by offering up to three million pensioners “free dental” valued at $1000 over two years under Medicare. Labor describes the plan as the next step towards universal access to dental care in Australia. [1] [2]

Ms King has held the seat of Ballarat since 2001. At the 2016 election she retained the inland Victorian seat by a margin of 7.4 per cent.

The Ballarat electorate extends east towards Melbourne as far as Bacchus Marsh and north-east of Ballarat including Creswick and Daylesford. [3]

Ms King’s office told AAP FactCheck the source for her claim was the 2018 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report.

The AIHW report found that for people aged 15 and over, one in 20 (4.4 per cent) had no natural teeth, For people aged 65, the figure was one in five (19 per cent) . The figures were drawn from self-reported information for the National Dental Telephone Interview Survey in 2013.

The report said the proportion of people aged 75 and over who had lost all their teeth had declined from 36 per cent in 1987-88 to 28 per cent in 2010. [4]

Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is the inflammation of dental tissue and bone caused by bacteria.

According to the same AIWH report, the last National Survey of Adult Oral Health 2004-2006 showed almost one in four Australians (23 per cent) had moderate or severe gum disease, which increased to more than one in two (53 per cent) among people aged 65 and over. [4]

Based on figures contained in the report, AAP FactCheck concludes Ms King’s claims are true.

The Verdict

  • True - The checkable claims are all true.

The References

1. ‘Election race tightens as Labor targets senior votes on dental care’, by Samantha Maiden. The New Daily. April 28, 2019: https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/election-2019/2019/04/28/federal-election-2019-race-tightens-as-labor-targets-senior-votes-on-dental-care/

2. ‘Pensioner Dental Plan’. Labor: https://www.alp.org.au/policies/pensioner-dental-plan/

3. ‘Australia Votes. Ballarat’. ABC: https://www.abc.net.au/news/elections/federal/2019/guide/ball/

4. ‘Australia’s health 2018’. Australian Government. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. June 20, 2018. (page 153-154): https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/7c42913d-295f-4bc9-9c24-4e44eff4a04a/aihw-aus-221.pdf.aspx?inline=true

  • First published April 29, 2019 16:49 AEST