Australian Dental Journal

Oral Health Research Funding in Relation to Disease Burden in Australia

Lack of funding for dental health research despite growing impact on Australians

Investment crucial to address health inequalities


An examination of Australian research funding of oral health sciences compared to other major diseases has found investment in the area is underfunded, and not keeping up with the burden of disease in the country. 

With research key to ensuring more equitable, accessible and effective dental care for all Australians, experts from multiple universities are calling on governments to re-examine how research funding is allocated in coming years. 

The study investigated major government funding schemes, which included the Australian Research Council (ARC), the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and Medical Research Future Funds (MRFF)grants. 

The analysis found oral health sciences to have the lowest and most inequitable level of support, when compared with other research fields on burden of disease. 

Burden of disease is the impact of living with illness and injury and dying prematurely, and also measures the years of healthy life lost. 

Dental health issues are already on the rise in Australia, with approximately 70,000 preventable hospitalisations due to dental health issues each year, with 25 precent being preventable. 

Socially disadvantaged groups are most affected by poor oral health. Researchers say it is vital there is more investment into prevention-focused public oral health programs or health inequalities will only worsen. 

In the USA, the National Institute of Health provided $485 million to fund oral health research, representing 1.1 percent of total research funding. In comparison, in Australia, total NHMRC funding for dental disorders between 2017 to 2021 was $15 million, which is 0.23 percent of total NHMRC funding for the top 75 diseases with the highest burden of disease. 

… more in the attached media release and when you access the Open Access paper here. (