Oral health interventions in Australian Aboriginal communities: a review of the literature

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Aboriginal Australians experience significant disparities in oral health with even poorer outcomes reported in rural and remote areas. The high rates of preventable dental disease in Aboriginal communities are a serious concern from a social standpoint and in terms of service provision and health care expenditure. In this review, primary research literature was comprehensively reviewed. Papers were selected if they reported designing or implementing an intervention or oral health programme specific to the needs of Aboriginal communities. Twenty-one publications fulfilled the inclusion criteria with 19 different interventions being described. Interventions were categorized using a classification adapted from the work of Whitehead (2002). The review identified interventions that aimed to reduce early childhood caries, increase services to remote communities, develop the role of Aboriginal health workers, improve oral health literacy, establish water fluoridation and provide periodontal therapy. Implementing successful oral health interventions in Aboriginal communities is a challenge that is compounded by the complex interplay between psychosocial and cultural determinants. Even interventions that follow a rigorous and consultative design have a high failure rate in Aboriginal communities if upstream determinants of health are not adequately understood and addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-294
Number of pages12
JournalAustralian Dental Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017


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