BACKGROUND: In Australia, rural and regional areas have an increased proportion of older people who are ageing more rapidly than their metropolitan counterparts. This increase in the ageing population and its uneven geographic distribution is likely to pose an oral health challenge in the near future. METHODS: A cross-sectional study conducted in a sample of 226 community-dwelling adults aged 55 years and older, living in the City of Greater Bendigo who completed a questionnaire and received an oral examination. RESULTS: Overall, 51.2% of participants reported having been to the dentist in the previous 12 months. Reported barriers to dental care were: cost of services (32.7%), fear of dentists (25.8%), length of waiting lists (18.1%) and availability of oral health care services (11.1%). Living alone, gender, low income, lack of education, low self-perceived oral health needs, self-perceived barriers, edentulism, and presence of mobility problems were statistically significant variables associated with less use of dental services (p < 0.0001). CONCLUSIONS: Access to dental care is affected by financial and structural barriers as well as other predisposing and enabling factors among older adults. Thus, increase in user services will require efforts to reduce financial barriers and make dental care culturally and linguistically competent.