Background: This study investigated in-patient oral health care provision for children under 18 years of age in Western Australia.
Methods: Hospitalizations of children for oral health conditions over a four-year period were analysed using data obtained from the Western Australian Hospital Morbidity Data System (HMDS). This study followed a previously published study examining similar data for 1995.
Results: Between 1999-2000 and 2002-2003, a total of 26 497 episodes of care were attributed to oral health conditions among children aged 0-17 years. The cost of this care exceeded $40 million. Embedded and impacted teeth accounted for 33.2 per cent of oral health episodes, dental caries 28.3 per cent, pulp and periapical tissue conditions 7.1 per cent and dentofacial anomalies 6.1 per cent. With the exception of the infant age group (0-1 years), non-Aboriginal children had higher admission rates than Aboriginal children. In the 13-17 year age group a non-Aboriginal child was 31 times more likely to be admitted to hospital for an oral condition than an Aboriginal child.
Conclusions: This study confirms the impact of oral health related conditions among children in Western Australia. It is also clear that there are differences between age and population groups in terms of access to in-patient dental services and exposure to risk factors for specific oral conditions.