Time For Government Action on Indigenous Oral Health

Posted on November 22nd, 2019

The Australian Medical Association’s report card on the state of Indigenous oral health, No More Decay, highlights the consequences of inequity of access to dental health services for Indigenous Australians, resulting in significantly higher rates of tooth decay and periodontal disease.

“Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander communities urgently need access to fluoridated water and fluoride varnish programs where access is not possible. More flexible service models and a greater Indigenous dental health workforce are also needed,” General Manager of Filling the Gap, Kate Miranda, said.

“The AMA report details the need for culturally appropriate oral health education programs and the need for workforce capacity building programs in Indigenous communities. The Indigenous Dentists’ Association of Australia says there are around 40 Indigenous dentists and 100 dental hygienists and oral health therapists. Additional investment is needed to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in the dental workforce to ensure culturally appropriate and safe treatment is available in Indigenous communities.

“Tooth decay and periodontal disease are the most common chronic diseases in Australia and yet they are largely preventable by the provision of simple, regular oral health care. Prevention should be a clear focus of any oral health plan or policy. However, oral health prevention and education programs appear to be the lowest priority,” Ms Miranda said.

The report states that the Australian Government committed $10.5 million towards the implementation of a National Oral Health Promotion Plan, however, a draft plan presented to the government was never progressed and the funding taken away. Filling the Gap is calling on the Government to restore the funding and implement the Plan.

No More Decay provides recommendations that need to be acted upon by government and health service providers in conjunction with local Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander communities to ensure effective models of care and oral health education programs are accessible.

Read the full report here >

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