“Does this dental mob do eyes too?”: perceptions and attitudes toward dental services among Aboriginal Australian adults living in remote Kimberley communities

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Abstract

Background: Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to experience significant disparities in oral health and there remains an urgent need to improve services to rural and remote communities. Quantitative research has typically been used to highlight the disease burden and severity experienced by those living in remote communities, but this data does little to explore the lived reality and psychosocial nuances that impact on care. The Kimberley region of Western Australia is home to over 150 Aboriginal communities spread out across 400,000 square kilometres. The success and sustainability of oral health services to these remote communities relies on respect and reciprocity achieved through shared knowledge, decision making and involvement of Aboriginal people in discussions around oral health services and their delivery. This, study aimed to investigate the perceptions and attitudes toward dental services among Aboriginal Australian families living in remote Kimberley communities. Methods: Semi-structured interviews and yarning circles were carried out following purposive sampling of Aboriginal adults living in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analysed guided by a constructivist grounded theory approach. Results: In total, 80 community members participated in the yarning process. Enablers to care included: promotion of existing services, integration with primary health services, using mobile dental services and volunteers to extend care. Barriers to care included transportation, cost of treatment, the complexity of appointment systems and shame associated with health-seeking behaviours. Conclusions: Reassessing the prevailing operative model of dental care to remote Aboriginal communities is warranted to better address the overwhelming structural barriers that impact on oral health. Integration with existing primary health services and schools, the use of mobile units to extend care and increasing community engagement through clinical yarning are recommended in improving the current state of dental services to communities in the Kimberley.

Original languageEnglish
Article number662
JournalBMC Oral Health
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

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