Summary

This report presents information on oral health services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the Northern Territory. For the past 10 years, the Australian Government has contributed to the funding of oral health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children under the age of 16 in the Northern Territory.

Service delivery

There are 2 major components of the Northern Territory Remote A boriginal Investment Oral Health Program (NTRAI OHP): preventive and clinical services.

Preventive services include the application of full -mouth fluoride varnish (FV) and fissure sealants, which are highly effective in preventing tooth decay. In 2016, 4,502 Indigenous children received full-mouth FV services at 5,263 occasions of service, and 2,019 Indigenous children received fissure sealant services at 2,153 occasions of service. Between July 2012 and December 2016, a total of 12,742 children received full-mouth FV services at 18,804 occasions of service, and 6,834 children received fissure sealant services at 8,630 occasions of service. Since July 2012, the number of children and services has generally increased over time.

Clinical services include tooth extractions, diagnostic services, restorative services and examinations. In 2016, 3,426 Indigenous children received 4,392 occasions of clinical service. Between July 2012 and December 2016, a total of 9,684 children received 17,259 occasions of clinical service. There was a drop in the number of children and services between 2013 and 2014, but the numbers have since been increasing.

Oral health status

Among children seen through the program, the experience of tooth decay varied with age. In 2016, children aged 6 had the highest percentage of tooth de cay experience (90%), followed by children aged 9 (88%). Children aged 1–3 had the lowest percentage of tooth decay experience (45%), followed by children aged 12 (72%).

In the short term, there have been improvements in the oral health of younger service recipients. For example, between 2013 and 2016, the average amount of tooth decay in children aged 1–3 decreased by 19%, and decreased by 11% among 8 year olds.

In the longer term from March 2009 to December 2016, tooth decay experience decreased for younger ages (8 and below), but increased for older ages (9 and above). For example, the proportion of tooth decay among 8 year olds decreased from 93% to 81%, and the proportion among 11 year olds increased from 69% to 81%.