No single risk factor or indicator completely explains who is more likely to miss out on dental services. Unfavourable visiting patterns are present across the population. While the question of who misses out is complex, there are certain groups and areas where access is lower and risk of poor oral health is greater than the general population. These include rural and regional residents, Indigenous Australians, frail older people in the community, people in residential aged care, and homeless people and others with special oral health needs.
In broad terms, low income groups have a high incidence of unfavourable visiting patterns and, therefore, follow a different treatment path which increases the chance of poor oral health outcomes. Income plays a significant role in assessing which people are more likely to miss out on treatment, especially regular preventive services. Social disadvantage is an important determinant of oral health access and status with links to income and educational attainment. This pattern is evident in both the adult and child population. For children the socio–economic status of their parents has an impact on whether they access services.
Income is only a rough proxy for who misses out on dental services. A number of issues related to workforce distribution both within urban areas and between regional areas and urban settings also play a role. Residents of rural and regional Australia are at greater risk of poor oral health outcomes with income playing a role, but with the added complexity of workforce maldistribution making access more difficult. Indigenous Australians are also at greater risk, with added complexity of service access in remote locations.