Potentially preventable admissions to New Zealand public hospitals for dental care: a 20-year review

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To describe the prevalence of admissions to New Zealand public hospitals for dental care and associated time trends for people of all ages during the 20-year period 1990–2009.


The New Zealand Ministry of Health National Minimum Data Set (NMDS), a collection that covers all publicly funded hospital discharges, was the primary data source for this study. Data over a 20-year period from 1 January 1990 to 31 December 2009 were included, and a subset of ICD 10 codes (K02–K09 and K12 and K13) were selected to identify potentially preventable or ambulatory care sensitive conditions (ACSC) leading to admission to hospital. Volumes, proportions and rates of admission are presented to describe the patterns of admission to hospital.


There were 120 046 admissions to public hospitals in New Zealand between 1990 and 2009 for which the provision of dental care was the primary reason for admission. The rate of admission to hospital for dental care increased from 0.92 per 1000 population in the period 1990–1994 to 2.15 per 1000 population in 2005–2009. Dental admission rates were greatest in the 3- to 4-year-old age group, for Maori and Pacific people and for people in the most deprived quintile of the NZDep 2006 index. Almost one-third of people aged 18–34 years who were admitted to hospital primarily for dental care were acute admissions.


Both the volume and the rate of admission to New Zealand public hospitals for dental care have increased over the period of this study. A continued focus on strategies to reduce the impact of dental disease, particularly in the early childhood population and on ensuring accessible primary dental care for the adult population, is required.

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