Dental health of Indigenous children worsens

Levels of dental decay have increased among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in recent years, particularly among those aged less than seven years, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Oral Health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children, shows that poor dental health, including dental decay, is more common among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children than other children, and that Indigenous children who are less well off and those in rural and remote areas are most affected.

Report co-author, Dr Kaye Roberts-Thomson of the AIHW's Dental Statistics and Research Unit said that hospitalisation for treatment of dental decay occurred at higher rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children than among other children.

'This is partly related to more dental disease and partly related to lack of timely access to dental services,' Dr Roberts-Thomson said.

'Diet is also an issue. Sugar, particularly in the form of soft drinks, which are readily accessible even in the remotest of communities, is a factor in the poorer oral health of Indigenous children.

'The findings of this report indicate a need for an increased focus on prevention and primary health care for oral health of Indigenous children, particularly among preschoolers,' she said.

Since 1996 the oral health of all Australian children has worsened, even though by international standards the oral health of Australian children is generally good.

14 December 2007

Further information: Dr Kaye Roberts-Thomson, AIHW, tel. 08 8303 4454, or Dr Lisa Jamieson, AIHW, tel. 08 8303 4611.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. +61 2 6244 1032.