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Closing the gap on Indigenous oral health

More than 400 indigenous children under the age of nine were admitted to Queensland hospitals last financial year with severe tooth decay.

Chief Dental Officer, Dr Mark Brown said Queensland Health was putting a focus on oral health awareness for National Close the Gap Day, after identifying the need for greater education and awareness in the community.

“We know there is more work to be done to close the gap in oral health between indigenous and non-indigenous Queenslanders – with five and six year old indigenous children almost twice as likely to experience decay in their baby teeth,” Dr Brown said.

“Queensland Health recently conducted market research which surveyed parents of children aged four to 12, to gain a better understanding of their attitudes and behaviours towards oral health and hygiene.

“Our research revealed that while the majority of young indigenous Queenslanders were brushing their teeth, only 30 per cent were brushing them twice a day, every day.

“We also found that only 40 per cent of indigenous households enforced a strict limit on the amount of sugary foods and drinks their child consumed.

“Parents should ensure their children brush their teeth twice a day, every day, using a small, soft toothbrush, with a pea sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Children need help with brushing from parents, until they are about eight years old.

“Other important strategies to prevent decay are to limit the consumption of sugary foods and drinks,” he said.

“Parents should also book their children in for an oral health assessment before they turn two, and regularly after that – some children may need more frequent examinations and professional preventive care depending on their individual risk of decay.”

Dr Brown said Queensland Health was committed to empowering local communities to improve access to oral health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, through a range of projects and partnerships.

“Through the Torres Strait Dental Tele-health project, we are working to increase access to dental care for people living in remote areas of the Torres Strait, and to decrease the number of children requiring hospitalisation for dental extractions,” he said.

“We are also providing funding to the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health, to deliver culturally appropriate oral health services to Indigenous Queenslanders living in the South East.”

Dr Brown said Queensland Health had also created online pictorial flipcharts, targeted at indigenous parents and children to help increase oral health practices in the community.

“The first flipchart, 'Building Strong Teeth', is aimed at school children and can be used by teachers, Indigenous Health Workers or other health professionals working in Indigenous health,” Dr Brown said.

“The second flipchart, 'Looking After Young Mouths', has information targeted at parents and carers of babies and young children.”

To download the flipcharts, visit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flip Charts

Media contact: +61 7 3708 5376

Last updated: 15 March 2018