Objective: The aim of the study was to test the hypothesis that all Australians based on clinical need have equal access to health services for the removal of impacted teeth as hospital in-patients.
Methods: Data for the current analysis were obtained from the Western Australian Hospital Morbidity Data System (HMDS) for the six financial years 1999/00 to 2004/05. All cases of in-hospital treatment for impacted teeth were analysed and then correlated with socioeconomic status, geographic location of the patients, place of primary residence, and age.
Results: In-patient extraction rates are significantly higher in the 10- to 19-year-old and the 20- to 29-year-old age groups when compared to the other age groups. A young adult from a higher socioeconomic group is 4 times more likely to have an impacted tooth removed in a hospital than his or her counterpart from a lower socioeconomic group, which is significant. Similarly, people living in highly accessible metropolitan areas have a 3 times greater chance of being hospitalised for this procedure than those from the remote and rural areas.
Conclusion: There are significant differences among different groups based on socioeconomic status and access to health services for in-hospital removal of impacted teeth, thus rejecting the hypothesis. This raises doubts over the nature of the procedure, considering that most patients are young, non-Indigenous, and live in metropolitan areas. This implies that some of the procedures seem to be elective and there is a need for introduction of guidelines in Australia for removal of impacted teeth, which could reduce expenditures significantly. However, further research is required in this area.
Keywords: impaction, Indigenous, non-Indigenous