BACKGROUND: Few longitudinal studies have investigated the association between dental attendance and oral health-related quality of life (OHRQoL). These studies were limited to older adults, or to study participants with an oral disadvantage and did not assess if dental attendance had a different effect on OHRQoL for different people. OBJECTIVE: This project was designed to test whether routine dental attendance improved the OHRQoL of survey participants and whether any patient factors influenced the effect of dental attendance on change in OHRQoL. METHODS: Collection instruments of a service use log book and a 12 month follow-up mail self-complete questionnaire were added to the Tasmanian component of the National Survey of Adult Oral Health 2004/06. The dependent variable was change in OHIP-14 severity and the independent variable was dental attendance. Many putative confounders/effect modifiers were analysed in bivariate, stratified and three-model multivariate analyses. These included indicators of treatment need, sociodemographic characteristics, socioeconomic status, pattern of dental attendance and access to dental care. RESULTS: None of the putative confounders were associated with both dental attendance and the change in mean OHIP-14 severity. The only statistically significant interaction for change in OHIP-14 severity was observed for dental attendance by residential location (P < 0.01). In multivariate analysis, there was a statistically significant association of dental attendance with change in mean OHIP-14 severity. It also showed that the difference in association of attendance between Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania, and other places was statistically significant based on the interaction between residential location and attendance (P < 0.05). CONCLUSION: The effect of dental attendance on OHRQoL was influenced by a patient's residential location.