Levels of tooth loss, dental decay and gum disease will be the focus of a comprehensive nationwide study being undertaken by researchers at the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health at the University of Adelaide.
The National Survey of Adult Oral Health will interview and dentally examine 7,500 people aged 15 years or older living throughout Australia and will provide a "snap-shot" of the nation's oral health.
To occur in 2004/05, the survey will be conducted in collaboration with the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing and State/Territory public dental services. The study is also being supported by a project grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council.
"Seventeen years have elapsed since the first National Oral Health Survey of Australia. This second national survey will monitor changes in oral health in the Australian adult population," said Professor Gary Slade, Professor of Oral Epidemiology, and Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, Dental School, University of Adelaide.
"Results from the survey will be used to monitor progress towards national health targets and to help direct dental health services into the 21st century," he said.
Professor Slade said the survey will identify groups who are disadvantaged in terms of oral diseases, and it will look for individual health behaviours and social circumstances that promote good oral health.
"One aim of the study is to measure dental decay levels in the `fluoride generation' of people who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s when Australia's major city water supplies became fluoridated.
"The results would be compared with decay levels among people who grew up in non-fluoridated areas," Professor Slade said
The study has also been designed to track rates of cardiovascular disease among the 7,500 study participants over the next decade using information held in national health registries. The researchers will use the information to study links that have been observed in other countries between gum disease and heart disease.
Telephone interviews began in late June in the Australian Capital Territory, and the first dental examinations for the survey are planned for early July. In each state and territory, public dental services are collaborating in the survey, providing personnel and facilities for dental examinations.
ACT Health, the territory government's public dental program, will be responsible for survey examinations in the ACT that will be taking place from July to September.
Interviews and examinations in South Australia and Tasmania will begin in late 2004, with the remaining jurisdictions scheduled for 2005.