BACKGROUND: Over the last 50 years an increasing number of migrants have settled in Australia. These immigrants now constitute a large proportion of the Australian population, and some research suggests that they may be at high-risk for oral diseases. METHODS: This paper presents data on the oral health status of a convenience sample of 721 ambulant Greek- (n = 367) and Italian-born (n = 354) adults aged 55 years or older. The volunteer participants were recruited through ethnic social clubs located in Melbourne, Australia. RESULTS: The sample was largely a dentate one (83.6 per cent); with a mean DMFS score of 67.5 (s.d. 37.4). Dentate participants had 13 per cent of their restorative care unmet, and 57.3 per cent needed oral hygiene instruction plus removal of stain and hard deposits on their teeth. Almost 8 per cent required complex periodontal therapy and 30 per cent of those fully edentulous were in need of full dentures. CONCLUSIONS: Comparing these findings with existing data on oral health of older adults in Australia, the participants in this study appear to have lower DMFS scores and a higher prevalence of gingivitis, but less need for complex periodontal treatment. Inequalities were apparent in the proportion of unmet restorative and prosthetics needs.