Dental Tribune Asia Pacific

Oral health gap closing between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australian children

MELBOURNE, Australia: The disparity in oral health between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians is an ongoing issue. Caused in part by limited access to dental clinics, high dental fees and a lack of education, it is just one of the many issues surrounding oral health in Australia. However, in a recent positive turn, figures released by Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV) show the dental caries gap is starting to close between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children.

In 2008–2009, 59.0 per cent of all children treated in Victorian public dental clinics for dental caries were Aboriginal, compared with 43.3 per cent non-Aboriginal. In 2016–2017, the figures dropped to 35.7 per cent for Aboriginal children, and 24.1 per cent for non-Aboriginal children. According to the study, over the nine-year period, the overall oral health gap dropped from 15.7 per cent to 11.6 per cent. DHSV CEO Dr Deborah Cole has attributed the improvement to creating better access to dental care for Aboriginal children.

In the first data period, 2,338 Aboriginal people accessed public dental services across Victoria and that number increased fivefold to 10,938 in 2016–2017. A large part of this has been due to the important outreach work being done by DHSV’s Aboriginal liaison and community development officers, according to the agency.

While DHSV has said the general oral health divide between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians is still a concern, the current figures are a good sign going into the future. “We have worked hard to close the gap and our commitment to improving oral health is clear in the positive outcomes shown by these numbers,” said Cole.

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