Parent perceptions of minimally invasive dental treatment of Australian Aboriginal pre-school children in rural and remote communities

Susan Piggott, Sheryl Carter, Helen Forrest, David Atkinson, Tamara Mackean, Rob Mcphee, Peter Arrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Aboriginal* children in rural and remote communities in Australia have a higher burden of dental decay and poorer access to dental services than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. In the Kimberley region of Western Australia (WA), Aboriginal children experience six times the rate of untreated dental decay of non-Aboriginal children. Access to dental care is challenged by the availability and appropriate delivery of services in remote locations. This study elicited the experiences and perceptions of parents and carers who participated in a project that tested the minimally invasive atraumatic restorative treatment and the Hall technique approaches (ART–HT) to manage early childhood dental caries among Australian Aboriginal preschool children. Methods: The core study design was a stepped-wedge, cluster-community-randomised controlled trial. Consenting communities in the Kimberley region of WA were randomised into early and delayed intervention groups. Children were clinically examined at study commencement; the early intervention group was offered dental treatment using the ART–HT approach, and the delayed group was advised to seek dental care from their usual service provider. At the 12-month follow-up, children in both groups were re-examined and offered care using the minimally invasive model of care, and parents and carers were invited to take part in focus group or one-to-one interviews. Semistructured interviews, guided by the yarning approach, were conducted with consenting parents and carers in community locations of convenience to participants. The same open-ended questions were asked of all participants, and the interviews were audio-recorded with permission and transcribed by an independent agency. Thematic analysis was undertaken, the transcripts were coded by NVivo software, and emergent themes were identified and developed. Results: One-to-one interviews were conducted with 29 parents and carers (10 from five test communities; 19 from eight control communities). Interview participants consisted of 3 males and 26 females. Following thematic analysis, three main themes (and subthemes) were identified: (1) access to care (barriers, service availability, impact on family due to lack of access); (2) experience of care (cultural safety, child-centred care, comprehensiveness of care); (3) community engagement (service information, engagement, oral health education). Structural and system factors as well as geography were identified as barriers by parents and carers in accessing timely and affordable dental care in culturally safe environments; parents and carers also identified the impacts from lack of access to care. They valued comprehensive care delivered within community, underpinned by child- and family-centred care. Of equal importance was the holistic approach adopted through the building of community engagement and trusting relationships. Conclusion: A high level of satisfaction was reported by parents and carers with their experience of dental care for their children with the minimally invasive approach. Satisfaction was expressed around ease of accessing services delivered in a child- and family-centred manner, and that were well supported by appropriate engagement between service providers, communities and families. The findings from this study suggest a minimally invasive dental care model can be considered effective and culturally acceptable and should be considered in delivering oral health services for young children in rural and remote locations. *The term Aboriginal is inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalRural and Remote Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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